Friday 24 October 2014

AG Clarifies Ruling That School District Can Withhold Cheerleader Police Reports

The Texas Attorney General’s Office has clarified its recent ruling allowing Katy ISD to withhold the police report on the Morton Ranch High School cheerleader hazing investigation.

 

In an unsigned letter dated Dec. 22, the AG’s Office ruled the district did not have to release the report to InstantNewsKaty under the provisions of the Texas Open Records Act.

 

Attorney General’s spokesman Thomas Kelley said the report could be withheld under article 58.007 of the Texas Family Code dealing with “law enforcement records and files concerning a child” because the victims were under the age of 17.

 

“(A)t least some of these girls were under the age of 17 and if their identities are part of the overall police report, then the entire police report is not to be disclosed,” Kelley said in an e-mailed message to InstantNewsKaty.

 

InstantNewsKaty had filed an open records request in November to review the police report and other investigative materials complied by the Katy ISD Police Department during its investigation of the incident.

 

In their letter to the AG’s Office, the school district also noted that similar requests for the police records were filed by representatives of the television program Inside Edition and the Houston Chronicle. 

 

The hazing charges against the Morton Ranch cheerleading squad stemmed from what was described as “an initiation” of the junior varsity cheerleaders on July 25. According to investigators, the varsity cheerleaders went to the homes of the junior varsity girls during the early-morning hours and “kidnapped” them as a part of a traditional initiation rite.

 

The younger cheerleaders were blindfolded and had their hands and mouths bound before being thrown into a swimming pool. The parent of one of the junior varsity cheerleaders lodged a complaint with the district after learning of the incident, triggering the investigation by the Katy ISD Police Department.

 

Charged with Class B misdemeanor hazing charges were Kelly Buffa, 17; Hannah Cochran, 18; Hayley Spincer Davis, 17; Kirsten Davis, 17; Adelynn “Addie” Garner, 18; Miegan Goff, 18 and Madison Tanner, 17.

 

All eventually agreed to take part in a pre-trial diversion program that will require them to perform at least 60 hours of community service, write public letters of apology, report to probation officers and submit to drug and alcohol testing.

 

If they successfully complete the program, the former cheerleaders will be able to petition the court to expunge their arrest records.

 

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