As we mentioned last week, David and Amy Truong have filed a federal lawsuit against the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and Hamilton Middle School. The Truongs are the parents of Asher Brown, the 13-year-old who committed suicide in September after reportedly being bullied at school.
The Houston Chronicle noted in its report about the lawsuit that the Truong’s older son had been removed from the home by Child and Family Protective Services because of alleged abuse.
The Truongs believe the school district has been raising child abuse allegations since Asher’s death to deflect blame from school officials. The Truongs also questioned how the Houston Chronicle got a copy of the abuse allegations even before the case had gone to family court.
Estella Olguin, a spokeswoman for CFPS in the Houston area, said the agency doesn’t release case files. She said the reporter from the Houston Chronicle obtained a copy directly from the judge. A judge is allowed to release files in open investigations.
Olguin said CFPS normally investigates a home when there is a death of a child, especially if a suicide is involved. Her department cannot, however, investigate and charge a school if bullying was involved — even if negligence by school personnel is found.
CFPS also investigates when someone refers a case.
Olguin could not tell us whether someone referred the case after Asher’s death and if so, who it was. She also could not tell me whether it was referred or it was a routine investigation triggered by the suicide.
The Truongs believe the school district may have asked CFPS to open the investigation.
In their lawsuit, the Truongs accuse school district officials of publicly stating on several occasions that there was no evidence Asher was bullied. Evidence such as David Truong’s signed visitor sheets that show he met with school officials about the problem is missing and, the lawsuit alleges it was destroyed by the district.
David answered the abuse allegations in an email to us. We’ve posted the full text of his email below.
As you know the Texas Legislature made Child Protective Services proceedings CONFIDENTIAL for a number of reasons.
First and most importantly, so as to protect the children who are the basis of the proceeding, as well as any of the underlying issues that the child may have experienced. It was also made CONFIDENTIAL to protect the privacy and safety of the family members named in the proceeding because the Legislature understood that many things are said and written in those documents that are NOT necessarily true, and require the sanctity and privacy of the Family Court, and the time to sort them out. The law also contemplates the need for the family to reintegrate and heal, and understands that putting inflammatory information into the public domain will act in detriment to all, including and especially the child.
When the CPS investigation began, we made the decision that it would best to not specifically comment on any of the allegations in the CPS lawsuit because to do so would only appear to be negating statements and perspectives of our son, and be seen as protecting ourselves at his expense. That is something we did not want to do then, and after some discussion with family and friends, we do not want to change as of this writing…Even though someone else has determined that this confidentiality is not paramount.
We still believe it is important to protect our son, even if at this juncture it is somewhat at our own expense — of course, that is what parents are supposed to do. We have complete faith in the Justice System and the essential fact-finding process and will let that process work, as it should, in both the CPS case and the lawsuit against the school district. Our reason for filing the federal lawsuit is to require comprehensive changes within the school and/or the ISD’s procedures & culture that will protect all of the students and their families from having to deal with the tragedy that we had to.
Our entire family has been traumatized and obviously still is by Asher’s suicide. We are hopeful that along the way we will be allowed to heal as a family; and once again…our patience and faith that the complete and unbiased truth will be revealed by our judicial system is our best estimation as to the way to allow that objective to occur.
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