• August 25, 2019

Principal says she followed protocol - Odessa American: Courts

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Principal says she followed protocol

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Posted: Monday, April 15, 2019 5:38 pm

A longtime Ector County Independent School District employee who has been on administrative leave since January says she followed district protocol in reporting allegations of student-on- student sexual assault.

Linda Voss’ attorney, John Green, a former Ector County district attorney, said an arraignment is scheduled April 24, but plans are to waive it and plead not guilty. He also said County Attorney Dusty Gallivan told him if Voss resigned charges would be dropped.

Gallivan declined comment Monday saying he cannot comment on active cases.

Green said Voss didn’t knowingly fail to make a report, and under district policy, her report had not been completed yet.

Her contract is on the chopping block Tuesday as the ECISD Board of Trustees will go into a closed session to consider the superintendent’s recommendation to give notice of a proposed non-renewal of term contract to Travis Elementary Principal Voss and Odessa High School tennis coach Joshua Moore and advise them that any requested hearing will be conducted by the board of trustees.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the first-floor board room of the administration building, 802 N. Sam Houston Ave.

Both Voss and Moore are on paid administrative leave.

Voss was charged with failure to report, a class A misdemeanor, in violation of a section of the Texas Family Code. She was booked into the Ector County Detention Center Feb. 26 on the charge and released the same day on a $1,000 surety bond.

According to the affidavit, Voss is required to report sexual abuse of a child to Child Protective Services or law enforcement within 48 hours. The affidavit said Voss failed to report an indecency with a child during that time period after becoming aware of the allegations.

Indecency with a child is when someone engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, Voss attorney Green said.

Voss said the incident did not involve an adult.

“It involved four students and they’re minors (age 10 and 11). Under our training and our policy, when it is a student-to-student situation we as principals are responsible for investigating the situation because up until then it could be hearsay,” Voss said.

“We have seven to 10 days to investigate. If at the end of the investigation we find, or we suspect, abuse has been committed, or neglect, then it is our responsibility to call the appropriate agencies. For us, (we) call district police district police who would then in turn involve CPS after their investigation,” Voss said.

Voss said she followed district policy and training.

According to the policy, any district employee who suspects or receives notice that a student or group of students has or may have experienced prohibited conduct shall immediately notify the appropriate district official. For this instance, Voss notified the Title IX coordinator.

Examples of sexual harassment of a student, including harassment committed by another student may include sexual advances; touching of intimate body parts or coercing physical contact that is sexual in nature; jokes or conversations of a sexual nature; and other sexually motivated conduct, communications or contact.

Necessary or permissible physical contact such as assisting a child by taking a child's hand, comforting a child with a hug, or other physical contact not reasonably construed as sexual in nature is not sexual harassment, the policy said.

Voss said she was able to give the Title IX coordinator the first names of the students and was told she could provide the last names after she completed her investigation. She then tried to notify the parents, but only got one that day because it was late. She attempted to notify another parent on Monday.

“Monday, I continued my investigation. Tuesday, I was teaching class. When I came out, I was met with two upset parents. They were wanting to know what was going on and who had talked to their students,” Voss said. “So basically that’s when I called the district police to find out who had visited the students because nobody said anything to me. I didn’t call for any other reason then so I could give an answer to the parent so I could say district police or CPS.”

Through the whole situation nobody has really said what are you doing or what did you do? When she got called in to be put on administrative leave, Voss said she was told, “I think you know.”

Voss said she thought she had a right to know.

A week before, she was placed on leave because she said she had sent an email that apparently upset someone.

ECISD released a statement saying the original outcry involved students only. No faculty or staff members were involved other than the complaint regarding the failure to report the incident.

Depending on what happens Tuesday at the board meeting, Voss said her Texas State Teachers Association attorney will file an appeal.

The affidavit said on Jan. 14, ECISD police officer Terry Henkell was notified of a possible indecency with a child complaint that had occurred at Travis Elementary. On the morning of Jan. 15, Henkell contacted two of the female students who made the outcry to the substitute teacher, the affidavit said.

Henkell’s investigation revealed that the incident occurred on Jan. 10 and no one had reported it to the police or Child Protective Services, the affidavit said.

Henkell’s investigation showed that three 11-year-old students made an outcry to a substitute teacher at Travis on Jan. 10 and the substitute sent the students to the front office to notify Voss, the principal, the affidavit said.

On Jan. 15, Voss called the Ector County ISD Police Dispatch and wanted to know why there was a police officer at Travis without her knowledge, the affidavit said.

Officer Danny Yeager spoke to Voss Jan. 18 and she said she was notified of the girl’s outcry on Jan. 10. Voss said she interviewed one of the victims on Jan. 11 and did not notify law enforcement or CPS until Jan. 15 or Jan. 16, the affidavit said.

The affidavit says Yeager was able to get a copy of the notification to CPS from Voss, which was dated Jan. 16 at 12:45 p.m.

School district officials learned of the concern involving several students in January, and the manner in which the situation was handled by the campus. ECISD police began an investigation and turned over its report to the county attorney’s office for review and the county attorney approved a warrant charging the principal with failure to report, the statement detailed.

Voss started with ECISD as a teacher in 1998.

She was a counselor for one year from 2004-05, information from ECISD Communications Director Mike Adkins said.

From 2005-2011, she worked as an assistant principal at Dowling, Goliad and then Milam.

She was the principal at Blanton from 2011-13; Jordan from 2013-17; Zavala for 2017-18; and Travis this year. Her salary is $86,540.

Hiring principals for Bonham, Bowie and Wilson & Young Medal of Honor middle schools will also be discussed in closed session Tuesday.

James Ramage, principal at Bonham, will become principal at Falcon Early College High School in the fall. Bowie Principal Shelia Stevenson and Wilson & Young Principal Yolanda Gonzales are retiring.

Contract renewals and extensions for administrators, teachers and other professional support employees are also on the agenda for a closed session. Votes will be taken following the executive session.

Some of the other items on the agenda are:

  • Discussion of and request for approval of AVID contracts for all ECISD campuses and AVID EXCEL for Bonham, Bowie, Crockett, Nimitz, and Wilson & Young middle schools for 2019-2020. AVID EXCEL is aimed at English language learners and was piloted at Bonham this school year.
  • Recognition of Ray Beaty for 13 years of service on the school board.
  • Two citizen requests have been made to address the board – one is a parent concern and the other is a presentation on the 2020 U.S. census.
  • Report on the progress of the Ector Success Academy Network, the nonprofit that partnered with ECISD to convert Ector Middle School into an in-district charter campus. The campus is called Ector College Prep Success Academy and its principal is Charles Quintela and its superintendent is Robert Bleisch.

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