AP NEWS

Police: 3 Texas school officials failed to report abuse case

May 1, 2019

HALLETTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The principal, assistant principal and head baseball coach for a Texas high school were arrested on charges that they concealed a case of child abuse committed by students, according to prosecutors and court documents obtained Wednesday.

The three men each were indicted last week in Lavaca County on a felony charge of failure to report. They were booked into the county jail Tuesday and have since been released.

The indictments identified them as Darrin Alexander Bickham, Scott Eugene Cottenoir and Calvin Edward Cook, all 50 years old. Bickham is the principal of Hallettsville High School, Cottenoir is the assistant principal and Cook is the school’s baseball coach.

It’s not clear whether the men have attorneys to speak on their behalf but school district Superintendent Jo Ann Bludau said in a statement that, “The district is aware of the nature of the charges and does not believe, based on what we now know, that there is any merit to them or that the Hallettsville employees engaged in any wrongdoing.”

A phone message left for Bludau by The Associated Press was not immediately returned. It’s not clear if the three men are back at work or have been removed from their positions.

The men “had cause to believe that a child had been abused,” according to their indictments, but instead of reporting it to authorities they instead “intended to conceal the abuse.”

State law requires that school officials report any instance of abuse or neglect to a law enforcement agency or state Child Protective Services within 48 hours.

The case stems from an offense committed by students on March 4 in Medina County, which is just west of San Antonio. Hallettsville is about 95 miles (152 kilometers) east of San Antonio. In light of the charge against Cook, the school’s baseball coach, authorities have not indicated whether members of the baseball team were involved.

Lavaca County prosecutors declined to elaborate beyond a statement released Wednesday and Medina County District Attorney Daniel Kindred did not return a message seeking comment.