Prosper HS assistant principal suspended for role in cover-up scheme

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Prosper High School ISD

A third administrator has been suspended by the state in connection with a plot to cover up an alleged sexual advance made by a teacher ‘s aide on a student at Prosper High School in North Texas.

Rachell Grant, an assistant principal at Prosper High School, has been placed on a one-year suspension by the state effective June 22. The action relates only to her principal certification — her classroom teaching license obtained in 2014 remains valid.

Records obtained through the public information act show that Grant was part of a team of administrators who tried to hush up alleged intimate advances made by a teacher’s aide on a student in 2015.

The attempt to conceal the incident prompted statewide reform of reporting practices in schools. A school nurse, MariBeth Thomas, reported the incident to both Grant and the police as required by state law.

Thomas was called into a meeting with a group of district officials including then-principal Gregory Wright and Grant.

Thomas was advised that going to the police was the wrong thing to do Administrators falsely told her that “the reason for this was to keep the student’s name ‘out of things,’” according to a state investigation report.  

Privacy laws protect the name of students involved in such cases.

The report also found that Grant and her colleagues failed to take the student’s concerns about the incident seriously.

“Grant misrepresented [the student’s] concerns about how [the student] felt about the situation [and] was more concerned about a false accusation of the alleged perpetrator than about accurately reporting [the student’s] claims to law enforcement,” the investigation report says.

Grant, the report said, claimed that there were two options in the case of alleged abuse: “…report it to CPS or the Police Department. WE (sic) (administrators) are the PD.” She also said protocol in these cases was to “handle things here,” the report said.

Grant did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Thomas reported the incident to the Prosper Police Department rather than Prosper ISD’s police force, which has its own eight-member team.

The move “infuriated” Wright, according to the investigative report, who said “that’s why we have an internal police department to take care of these serious situations.”  

“Respondent Wright made it clear that Ms. Thomas was making the school look bad,” the report found. In a recording obtained by the ABC affiliate in Dallas, Wright said in the meeting “… I’m all about PR, and how this high school looks.”

Wright announced his retirement in February 2017. He then surrendered his license in August. A third administrator, high school assistant principal Shelia Winter, received a reprimand on her license for her part in the attempted cover up.

The state legislature last session passed SB7, a measure aimed at policing the practice of “passing the trash,” or covering up allegations of inappropriate contact between educators and students.

The Prosper situation was cited by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as one of the reasons for the attempted reform. Educators often escape punishment for illegal or unethical behavior toward students because school districts do exactly as Prosper ISD attempted to do by trying to keep the incidents in-house.

“By the time the episode gets to the proper law enforcement agency for a real investigation, evidence like texts can already be gone,” said Katie Warren, a Harris County prosecutor who said she filed over two dozen cases a year on teachers while she was with the sex crime unit.

“It’s important that the police are told of an incident immediately to ensure a case can be made and, if necessary, the teacher is removed from the classroom.”

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Greg Bradley did not respond to an email or phone message seeking comment. Wright could not be reached.

Prosper ISD also drew scrutiny and criticism last month for its censorship of the high school newspaper.

In May, Prosper High School Principal John Burdett terminated the contract of school newspaper advisor Lori Oglesbee-Petter, who advised student papers for over three decades, after several incidents in which Burdett forced the Eagle Nation Online to remove content because the stories did not favorably reflect the school’s image.

Because of the Prosper school newspaper flap, State Sen. José Rodriguez, D-El Paso, has vowed to re-introduce a measure to provide high school journalists needed First Amendment protections.  Rodriguez authored a similar bill last session that failed to move.

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].

32 COMMENTS

  1. I home that is the truth…but my experience says not often is that the case. Look at the reason that schools decided to have their own LEOs. We all need to be aware of what the law is and what reality is was really my point. But thank you for the information

  2. you should be aware that this goes all the way down the ladder, bus drivers, maintenance, volunteers, everyone is told “quiet”. This has always been; as long as I can remember (I’m nearly a hundred yo)

    • Not at our district. If we find a case of abuse, or something like in Prosper we are told that the law requires it to be reported . We Are told that our first call is CPS hotline, which the district has given us a laminated copy of, or the sheriff. Then talk to administrators. If I suspect abuse I have the nurse look into it also.

  3. This has been a common practice in schools for years. Teachers are told they cannot report suspected abuse/ neglect but to only tell the administration. Sadly, some state agencies are guilty of the same thing. State law requires anyone who suspects abuse / neglect of children to report it to CPS or law enforcement

  4. Not surprised of a cover-up. There is no need for a school to have it’s own police department within a school to “handle manners and protect school reputation” The taxpayers of Prosper already pay a highly competent Prosper police department to investigate all matters fairly and just. WHY other than a patrol officer are Prosper residence paying for 2 totally independent of one another police departments???
    I believe it’s more to ultimately protect students and their families who may impress to attract people to move to Prosper. I’m completely disgusted and have been for several years by the idea of a second police department within the school. Praise God for the school nurse who reported this to the prosper police department. If a child says something inappropriate has happened to them it is our duty and the LAW to report and protect them. The Prosper police department and courts will do a full investigation to determine if an incident is faults or true. Meanwhile the reporting nurse can rest knowing that if it is true, she has saved the life of a child!

  5. Not surprised of a cover-up. There is no need for a school to have it’s own police department within a school to “handle manners and protect school reputation” The taxpayers of prosper already pay a highly competent Prosper police department to handles all matters fairly and just. I believe it’s extra precaution to protect students and their families who do wrong who provide a last name that may impress to attract people to move to prosper. I’m completely disgusted and have been for several years by the idea of a second police department within the school. Praise God for the school nurse who reported this to the prosper please department. If a child says something inappropriate has happened to them it is the LAW for the school to protect them. The Prosper department will do a full investigation and determine if an incident is faults or true. Meanwhile the reporting nurse can rest knowing that if it was true, she has saved the life of a child!

  6. And then you have 100% dedicated teachers who have worked in the district for many years. They are loved by students and parents, but they are leaving the district because they are fed up. Next year comes with an 8K raise across the board for teachers (which finally brings them to what teachers in Frisco, McKinney, etc. make), but they are still leaving because they have had it with the way they have been treated. People should start asking questions when you have teachers leaving. And don’t believe answers that are too convenient like their spouse was transferred so they moved. They have been looking for a way out. Teachers are scared to say what they really want to because they need references for their next job.

  7. The sad thing about all of this is that the alleged incident never took place. It was all a lie made by the student to hide her academic shortcomings. That is why it should have been taken car of by the school first before police get involved.

    • If the student lied, they need to be criminally charged. It should be open and transparent. Let every other student know there are consequences for that behavior.

  8. Suspended. Fire them. Any part of covering up should lead to immediate termination. School districts Must start revealing these problems. Parents have a right to know. When administrations are paid 6 figure salaries these problems must be dealt with swiftly and with total transparency. As long as they keep hiding their personal perks, student problems, and teacher problems, there is no Trust from the people. Look at the FBI and the DOJ. PAYING MORE does not stop the problems.

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