Spring Branch ISD denies parents details of abuse investigation

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On February 11th, 2015 8-year-old William Suter, a child challenged with Down Syndrome, was throttled and thrown to the ground by an adult special education teaching assistant.

The attack was captured by a surveillance camera at Wilchester Elementary.

While the para-professional was fired, prosecutors working with Spring Branch ISD police declined to criminally prosecute, infuriating Williams parents.

"We have no idea if an investigation even took place. No one has given us any facts whatsoever," said Maggie Suter, William's mother.

That's why Suter and her husband filed an open records request seeking all police findings in the their son's case, including the account of an eye witness.
Spring Branch ISD said no way.

"I want those facts for peace of mind, closure. We don't really know what happened," said Suter.

14 months after the assault, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office issued an opinion siding with the school district contending that since there was no criminal conviction, state law allows Spring Branch ISD Police to withhold all but the most basic case records.

"We are the parents of the victim. Why do we not get to know these things?", asked Suter.  

While hardly surprised by the AG's opinion Fox 26 legal analyst Chris Tritico says this case reveals a troubling absence of transparency.

"Where's the accountability on government especially when we are dealing with the school district police who are policing the school district? There just doesn't seem to be any checks and balances here," said Tritico.

Meantime, Suter is moving her family.

"Everyone is more concerned with image and protecting themselves then truth and fact and protecting the children," said Suter.

In a statement to Fox 26, Spring Branch ISD said the records requested are law enforcement records, not student records and without a criminal conviction in the case should remain confidential.

Legal analyst Tritico says release of the records in this case would create a precedent and could compel the district to release files in future investigations.

Here's the full SBISD statement:

"In January 2016, Ms. Suter requested records related to the SBISD Police Department’s investigation of alleged juvenile child abuse involving Ms. Suter’s son.  The records requested by Ms. Suter are law enforcement records - not student records.  SBISD processed Ms. Suter’s request in accordance with applicable law and policy, and SBISD requested a ruling from the Attorney General’s Office concerning Ms. Suter’s request under the Texas Public Information Act.  The law enforcement records requested by Ms. Suter relate to a criminal investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication; indeed, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges related to the incident.  Therefore, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that with the exception of the front page of the offense report at issue, the remaining requested information is confidential and protected from disclosure.  In full compliance with the ruling issued by the Attorney General’s Office, SBISD released the front page of the offense report to Ms. Suter but withheld the remaining requested information."