The State’s New Special Education Director Faces A Lawsuit

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelNovember 22, 2017 1:28 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Officials have yet to say how border patrol agent Rogelio Martinez died while on duty in Van Horn, Texas over the weekend. Victor Velazquez is the acting border patrol chief in the Big Bend Sector. At a Tuesday press conference addressing the investigation in Martinez’s death, he described border patrol as an inherently dangerous job.

“Our men and women deal with the constant presence of the unknown,” said Velazquez. Velazquez explains that unknown includes smugglers, criminal activity and the rugged terrain of the sector.

State officials including Gov. Greg Abbott have called the events leading to Martinez’s death an attack. However, others believe it could have been an accident.

El Paso-based journalist Bob Moore told Texas Standard Tuesday that a local sheriff said Martinez’s injuries were consistent with a fall. The FBI is investigating the case as a potential assault on a federal officer but it has not ruled out the possibility it was an accident.

The state’s new special education director is facing a civil lawsuit that says she tried to cover up the sexual abuse of a student. The allegations stem from Laurie Kash’s time as the special education director for a small school district in Oregon.

Two instructional assistants at Rainier School District are suing Kash. They say she forbade them from reporting that a high school boy had sexually and physically abused a six-year-old special education student.  And when they did report it, there were consequences. Aliyya Swaby covered the story for the Texas Tribune.

“The lawsuit says that in part Laurie Kash and her husband, who’s actually the superintendent of that district, harassed the son of one of the instructional assistants who attended a school in the district,” Swaby says.  She adds the plaintiffs says, “They felt unsafe in their jobs and in their futures in the district.”

This lawsuit is yet another controversy for special education in Texas in recent years. A 2016 Houston Chronicle investigation revealed the Texas Education Agency told districts to cap the number of special education students they serve. Swaby says that after that, special education advocates were hoping for a smoother path.

“I think that it’s hard for them to trust that will be the case moving forward, whether or not these allegations are true, it’s just another scandal, another negative appearance in Texas, and its special education services.” Swaby adds the Texas Education Agency is aware of the lawsuit. The agency declined to say if it knew of the allegations before Kash was hired in August.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department kicks off its annual rainbow trout stocking season Wednesday. The department has been filling the state’s lakes and ponds with the cold water fish since the 1970s.

Aubrey Buzek, a spokesperson for the department, explains that the rainbow trout can’t live in the state’s warm waters for most of the year, so they’re brought in from other states.

“Most of them are coming from cold weather states like Missouri, we bring them into our hatcheries,” Buzek says. “We keep them in our hatcheries through the winter so they can be deployed every week or every two weeks.”

Parks and Wildlife will be stocking more than 150 public water bodies with 300,000 trout throughout the season.