Mother of Caldwell ISD student pushes back on school board for school bus incident

Board unanimously approved a portion of the mother’s grievance appeal brought before it Wednesday
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 11:35 PM CST
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CALDWELL, Texas (KBTX) - Caldwell ISD held a special board meeting Wednesday night to hear a grievance appeal from the mother of a student who was forcibly stripped on a school bus in September of last year.

The board voted unanimously to approve only part of the grievance appeal brought before it by Heather Taylor, the student’s mother. It ensures Taylor’s daughter has “a trusted teacher or administrator to whom she can report future concerns,” the board said after returning to open session.

The board returned to executive session to review athletic staffing. When it again returned to open session, the board took no action and immediately adjourned the meeting.

Although most of the meeting was held in executive session behind closed doors, it opened with a public comment period. It was the first time Taylor addressed the board since the incident occurred nearly four months ago.

“Now that that time has finally come, I find myself lost for words. Lost. Not only because I don’t know what I want to say, but because I have lost faith that anything I say will make a difference or have an impact in this district,” Taylor said. “I’ve lost all faith and trust in Caldwell ISD doing the right thing.”

Taylor described the amount of courage and character her daughter has shown coming back to school and facing the situation, saying her daughter “gracefully watched as her volleyball coaches smiled, hugged, and welcomed back the four girls who assaulted her with open arms, while she had yet to be offered an apology or word of concern from these coaches.”

Taylor also says her daughter came out stronger and more determined than ever not to let anyone hold her back.

“She has learned so many life lessons throughout the last few months,” Taylor said. “But no lesson was harder for her than the one she learned that she could no longer trust the people she was told were there for her.”

Four other people who showed up to the meeting also spoke on her behalf.

“To this day, an adult at the school has not met with [Taylor’s daughter] to let her know what to do in case someone attempts to retaliate for her speaking up,” family advocate Tommy Newton said. “Once again, her safety needs were not met.”

Newton told the board his biggest issue throughout the process has been the lack of responsibility in following CISD board policy and code of conduct by former CISD Superintendent Andy Peters and Caldwell High School Principal Justin Turner.

“When we reported the issue, we were made guarantees by Dr. Turner that this would be handled with the utmost seriousness,” Newton said. “He promised that measures would be taken to ensure her safety.”

KBTX asked Caldwell ISD Superintendent James Barton for an interview, but he declined.

Three of the four girls arrested on felony charges for the incident took a plea deal Tuesday by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful restraint.

Milam County District Attorney Bill Torrey defended the plea deals Wednesday saying justice was served and that Taylor agreed with the resolution of these cases.

However, Taylor told KBTX after Wednesday’s meeting that the terms of the plea agreement were never discussed with her, nor did she have an opportunity to approve or disapprove what the plea agreement would be. She also said that her daughter’s well-being and rights were not being respected, nor was her best interest at heart throughout the whole legal process.

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