‘Just put my name in the pile of other alums who have spoken out’

MIDLAND, Texas (Nexstar)- On Wednesday, February 16, five employees with Midland Christian School were arrested after police say they failed to notify law enforcement after a student reported he had been assaulted on campus. Superintendent Jared Lee, Secondary Principal Dana Ellis, Secondary Vice Principal Matthew Counts, Athletic Director Gregory McClendon, and Head Baseball Coach Barry Russell have all been charged with one count of Failure to Report with Intent to Conceal. 

An arrest affidavit said, “These administrators and teachers at Midland Christian School are required by Texas (law) to report the incident to authorities. Instead of reporting the incident, they have continually attempted to conceal  the incident or abuse from authorities… (they) conducted their own ‘investigation’…they had knowledge of the sexual assault.”

What led up to the arrests? Here is what we know, and when it happened:

January 20- Victim says this is when the assault occurred

According to the 9th grader, he was assaulted in the locker room at Christiansen Stadium after baseball practice. The victim told police when he entered the locker room, the lights were turned off and he was pushed to the ground. The victim said someone in the darkened room told him it was “Freshman Initiation Day”. The victim told police a 10th grade student repeatedly hit him with a baseball bat, and then used the bat to sexually assault him. 

Ellis later told police she was first notified of the assault on the 20th. 

January 21-Superintendent notified

According to an affidavit, Ellis said she informed Lee about the assault the day after it happened. Lee then asked McClendon and Counts to investigate. 

January 28- MPD launches investigation

MDP was notified of the assault. It was not clear from the affidavit who informed them, but it was made clear in the arrest affidavit that none of the administrators or coaches arrested ever reached out to police. After MPD was alerted, an officer headed to Midland Christian School and spoke with Lee. The affidavit stated that Lee confirmed that school leaders were aware that an assault had taken place. 

At that point, a detective with the Crimes Against Persons unit was handed the case. The detective called the victim’s mom and arranged for the victim to be interviewed by a forensic interviewer. 

February 11- Victim interviewed amid continuing investigation

MPD investigators met with the victim for a forensic interview at the Children’s Advocacy Center. According to childwelfare.gov, “forensic interviews are used by trained professionals to gather information about incidents of alleged child abuse in a manner that will yield factual information from the child and stand up to scrutiny in court.”

During that interview, the victim provided more details about the events of January 20 and confirmed that he was attacked by a fellow baseball player.

Following the interview, the MDP detective headed to MCS. At that time, the detective requested that an unnamed student be brought into the office. That student was eventually transported to the police department. It is unclear if the student was arrested at that time, but MPD later confirmed one student was arrested in connection with the investigation.

During this encounter, Superintendent Lee was out of the office, but investigators did speak with Ellis who confirmed she and the others knew of the assault. According to the affidavit, Ellis told the detective that the school had launched its own investigation; she was, however unable to provide documentation of that investigation. MPD advised Ellis the school would need to hand over its documentation by February 14. 

February 14- Lee refuses to provide documents, search warrant executed

On Valentine’s Day, Lee called the investigating detective and said the school would not be providing any documents pertaining to its internal investigation into the assault. At that point, the detective applied for a search warrant, and that warrant was executed the same day. 

In its search of the school, investigators found documents created on February 11 and February 12 by Counts and McClendon, even though Ellis told investigators the school had launched an investigation on January 21, there was no documentation to prove that. In separate interviews, Counts and McClendon told investigators they had not interviewed students until three weeks after the assault took place and that the students they interviewed said they could not remember what happened. 

According to the affidavit, during their search, investigators found multiple emails between the five who were later arrested and another unnamed person. The affidavit stated that in those emails, the unnamed person told the others if they did not call to report the assault, he would. 

February 16- Arrests made, others come forward, MCS releases statement

Around 11:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, several police vehicles arrived on the MCS campus. A short time later, five people were escorted from the school in handcuffs. When asked for a comment, school leaders said, “no comment”. 

Around 2:00 p.m. that same day, MPD confirmed the arrests and also confirmed a student had previously been taken into custody.

Between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., multiple people, identified as former students, parents of students, and former teachers, reached out to ABC Big 2 News saying they believed the school had a history to “sweeping things under the rug”. 

“I went to Midland Christian High School from 2013-2015. I played football under Coach Mac, and this story is no surprise to me and many others. The admin and coaches tolerated and covered up a highly sexualized, and emotionally abusive culture. If you were a valuable athlete, you were a God. You got paid, you lacked for nothing, and you got away with everything. Zero real consequences. Theft, rape, sexual assault, drugs, alcohol, were all a part of being in MCS sports. Just put my name in the pile of other alums who have spoken out,” former student and athlete Mason Riggs said.

Around 3:00 p.m., Midland Christian released the following statement:

Earlier today, Midland Police Department arrested five members of Midland Christian School’s administration.  While we value and desire transparency, we must protect the privacy of our students and maintain the best educational environment possible under these difficult circumstances.  Under advice from legal counsel, this will be our only statement on the matter at this time. 

The five administrators were notified of an alleged hazing incident involving some of our student athletes that resulted in school disciplinary action.  Subsequently, school leadership was contacted by MPD regarding the alleged incident.  Our school officials have and will continue to, cooperate with law enforcement and their investigation.  Currently, we have qualified acting administrators to supervise the campus, oversee student activities, support faculty, and maintain the day-to-day operation of the school.

The physical, spiritual, and emotional safety of our students is the most important responsibility we bear as educators and one we take seriously.  We appreciate the support and prayers of our Midland Christian parents, faculty, staff, and students as we continue leading, building, and equipping for Christ.

Jason Stockstill
President, Board of Trustees for Midland Christian School

Later that same day, Lee, Ellis, Counts, McClendon, and Russell were released from the Midland County Detention Center after posting bail. Their bail had been set at $5,000 each.