- Several La Vernia high schoolers were arrested last month on charges of sexual assault
The lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday by the parents of a La Vernia High School student (court documents name the family only as “John, Jane and Child Doe”) blames La Vernia ISD administrators, athletic directors and coaches for failing to stop a sexual assault scandal that’s shaken the small, close-knit town situated 25 miles southeast of San Antonio. Since late March, police have arrested no less than 13 La Vernia HS students on charges of sexual assault, the majority of them being minors. (Nobody at the school district’s office picked up the phone Tuesday afternoon.)
The parents behind the first lawsuit filed over the scandal claim their son was first attacked when he made the varsity football team in 2015, when he was just a 15-year-old freshman. According to their lawsuit, seniors on the team warned him there was an “initiation” involved. During playoffs that year, according to the lawsuit, a group of upperclassmen attacked the boy before a game and pinned him facedown to the locker room floor. “An upperclassmen then grabbed a Gatorade G2 bottle, and pushed it into CHILD DOE’s anus over his shorts,” the lawsuit states.
Arrest affidavits filed over the past two weeks accuse varsity team members of anally raping dozens of younger teammates with various objects, like a CO2 nozzle or pipe.
The family claims that a week after that first locker-room incident, word of the kid’s “initiation” had already reached school officials. “In class, a teacher advised the students that she had heard about the assault and told the class that ‘it was wrong’ and to ‘cut it out,’” the lawsuit alleges. The family claims the teacher told the student she’d even emailed Brandon Layne, then the high school’s athletic director and head football coach, about the student’s “initiation” onto the team.
Here’s how Layne, according to the lawsuit, attempted to take care of his team’s rape-play problem: In a locker-room chat, Layne gave the varsity squad a talking to, saying, “You won’t be able to get a job, no girl will want to date you and you could go to prison … cut it out.”
Two weeks later, according to the lawsuit, upperclassmen again grabbed the student before practice, slammed him onto the locker room floor and “punched and fondled” him before he fought them off. Two weeks later, he was again attacked before practice.
The next year, at the start of the fall 2016 football season, the student was once again jumped by teammates in the locker room. “As he was forcibly held down by two of them, the third took a cardboard tube from a coat hanger and pushed it into CHILD DOE’s anus,” the lawsuit claims. The kid says his teammates were laughing the whole time and told him, “New year, new initiation.” A few weeks after that, he narrowly escaped another “initiation” when he rolled under a bench and hid there until his assailants eventually gave up. Some weeks after that, according to the lawsuit, a senior on the team approached him during a workout, held up a metal pipe and threatened to rape him with it. The senior only dropped the pipe and walked away after a coach entered the room, according to the lawsuit.
Attorney J.K. Ivey, who filed the case on behalf of the parents, called the lawsuit “the first step in an effort to peel back the covers on a long and sordid history of neglect, misconduct, and abuse at La Vernia High School involving dozens of children over a decade or more.” Law enforcement officials have said they expect more arrests as student victims continue to come forward in the case. Last week local police handed their investigation over to the Texas Rangers.
Ivey, in a prepared statement, said he expects that investigation to reveal “a pattern of deliberate neglect covering many years” at La Vernia ISD.