5 officials at Christian school in Texas charged with failing to report alleged sexual assault of student

NBC News [New York NY]

February 18, 2022

By Marlene Lenthang

Five officials at a Christian school in Texas have been arrested and charged with failing to report the alleged sexual assault of a ninth-grader that unfolded in the locker room during baseball practice, officials say. 

The faculty members, two coaches and three administrators at Midland Christian School, were arrested Wednesday and charged with failure to report with intent to conceal neglect or abuse.

The five were: Jared Lee, school superintendent; Dana Ellis, secondary school principal; Matthew Counts, secondary assistant principal; Gregory McClendon, athletic director and head football coach; and Barry Russell, baseball coach, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by NBC News.

Midland Police were notified on Jan. 28 about the possible sexual assault, according to the affidavit, and a forensic interview was scheduled with the victim on Feb. 11. 

The ninth grader was allegedly assaulted during baseball practice at Max H. Christensen Stadium on Jan. 20, the affidavit said.

The victim, who was not named, said he entered the locker room to change when the lights suddenly turned off. He said he heard someone say it was “freshman initiation day” and a 10th grader began to hit him. He said he could hear people screaming as he was hit, the affidavit said.

He was then allegedly sexually assaulted with a baseball bat by another student, according to the affidavit. 

The victim and the alleged assailant see each other every day and are on the same baseball team, the affidavit said. 

The victim told school officials what happened the following day, but nothing came of it, the affidavit said.

Police went to Midland Christian School on Feb. 11, where Ellis said she was aware of an investigation into the incident and said it was documented. When police requested copies of the documents, Ellis said only Superintendent Lee had access to the files. 

The affidavit stated that Lee was notified about the alleged assault on Jan. 21, one day after it happened, and he directed McClendon and Counts to conduct an “investigation.” However, under Texas law, the incident should have been notified to law enforcement or another state agency. 

Lee refused to provide documentation to police and refused to answer questions on Feb. 14, the affidavit said. Later that same day, the affidavit says police executed a search warrant at the school. 

During the investigation it was revealed that the five administrators who were arrested knew about the sexual assault, but failed to report it, according to the affidavit.