Credibility of Katy ISD principal challenged by parent's secret recording

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At Katy ISD's Randolph Elementary School abuse complaints were filed in mid-June with Child Protective Services against the same special education teacher by five different families.

These parents also allege that Principal Kristin Harper broke Texas law by failing to report even the suspicion of abuse within 48 hours of hearing from a classroom aid in late April that deeply disabled children as young as 3 years old were being physically and emotionally mistreated.

Among these children was Ivana Smith's son Matthew.

"When the classroom aids notified her that they feared for the safety of our children, she did nothing. Weeks had gone by she did nothing," said Smith of principal Harper.

Confronted with proof by Fox 26, Katy ISD last week conceded in an official statement that it was investigating abuse allegations five full weeks before parents of potential victims were notified.

On June 8th, hours after learning his son may have been assaulted, Chris Diaz met face-to-face with Principal Harper and her two assistant principals. For this critical meeting, he decided to covertly record the conversation.

"To protect myself and protect my son," said Diaz.

Diaz quickly asked when Harper and her team had first learned of the alleged mistreatment.

"Just recently, we were informed of this Monday," said Harper on the recording.

That doesn't match up with Katy ISD's statement that the allegations involving the whole class were under review since April.

During the recorded meeting Diaz asked again, specifically noting the teacher under scrutiny.

"Has she exhibited signs of this previously with other kids?" asked Diaz.

"No, we have never seen it, ever," answered Harper.

"Nothing has been reported to you, like hey, she's wild?" asked Diaz.

"No, absolutely not," said Harper.

That's not consistent with Katy ISD's claim that the District had been investigating the teacher for at least five weeks.

Later in the conversation, Principal Harper doubles down on her claim.

"We want you to know that if this would have been reported earlier, action would have been taken at that point," said Harper.

In fact, it was reported on April 26th by an eyewitness, classroom aid who says faces of children were being painfully squeezed, hair pulled and three year olds verbally and emotionally mistreated.

Principal Harper told Diaz that neither she nor the two vice principals were alerted before June 3rd.

"She has two paraprofessionals so obviously if there were an abusive situation in there with kids getting scratched and bruises and stuff like that, obviously somebody would have reported that to us," said Harper.

A document and subsequent e-mail written by the whistle blowing para-professional and obtained by Fox 26 confirms that the Randolph principal was alerted to possible mistreatment of disabled kids more than a month before the June 8th meeting with Diaz.

"They lied to me and it's recorded," said Diaz.

Fox 26 legal analyst Chris Tritico has listened to the tape and says parents should have been notified of the allegations and interviewed by experts.

"I don't know what happened. I don't know whether these kids were abused, but I know that the critical evidence, if it was there, is now gone and so the parents are left to wonder if this special population, non-verbal children were abused by someone of trust and that's a shame," said Tritico.

Even though Katy ISD waited 38 days after the initial outcry to notify CPS, the District still firmly contends no evidence of abuse has been found by the state or KISD police and the cases are closed. Katy ISD also denies Principal Harper and her staff violated the state's 48 hour rule for reporting the suspicion of abuse and insists there was no need for it's police department to interview the adult eyewitnesses who made the outcry or the parents of potential victims.

For Ivana Smith, this breach of faith between parent and public school district is beyond repair.

"Principal Harper should have notified the parents immediately. She told me it didn't happen to other children and later I found out it happened to five other children. How could I trust this person again?" said Smith

Christoper Diaz believes what's happened should leave all parents heartbroken.

"Our interaction between parent and school system is based solely on trust and that trust is broken," said Diaz.

The teacher under scrutiny quietly resigned from the Katy ISD at the end of the Spring semester.