AUSTIN, Texas — The parents of a five-year-old Austin ISD student spoke to the public for the first time on Friday after their daughter was sexually assaulted by a bus driver multiple times.
In January, Cesar Maldonado, 58, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for indecency with a child by contact, a second-degree felony, after bus surveillance video captured several incidents of him abusing the child in the presence of other children.
While there has been an ongoing legal action between the parents and the district, the young girl's family and their lawyers held a press conference Friday to call for change in AISD policies. Namely, they claim the district is not reviewing footage captured by bus cameras, it is allowing bus monitors to exit the bus when children are still on board, and they're also calling for stronger background checks.
With help from the Amaro Law Firm, parents Joaquin and Crystal Ayon were on hand Friday to take questions from the press.
“I just feel sad, angry, because this happened with my daughter," said Crystal Ayon. "She has special needs.”
The mother said her young daughter is in speech therapy because she does not speak.
“They have to have more responsibility to people,” she said. “I don’t trust them no more. With what happened to my daughter … you never know what happened with other babies.”
Their lawyers said the investigation has revealed previous instances of sexual assaults at AISD schools, and a failure to take action to prevent future cases from happening. In their case, they claim that although there was a previous incident where an AISD bus driver assaulted a girl multiple times, a monitor assigned to the bus was still allowed to leave the bus with children on board.
The firm also said AISD used its own police force to investigate most student sexual assault cases and actively discouraged victims' parents from contacting the Austin Police Department. They said AISD police did not collect simple evidence, such as rape kits, or interview the suspect in a timely manner, or at all in some cases.
"Whenever you have the fox guarding the henhouse, the hens get eaten," said civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen. "AISD had its own police investigate these multiple student sexual assaults who demonstrated an extreme bias in favor of the district over the students. It is time to do something."
The federal lawsuit can be viewed below:
The law firm said other incidents looked at during the investigation include:
- 2014-2015: A six-year-old child was sexually assaulted on an AISD bus by bus driver Ralph Leon Young. The sexual assault occurred on an ongoing basis from April 25, 2014, to April 17, 2015. Two juvenile witnesses reported the assault.
- 2013-2014: AISD teacher Alfredo Andrade-Gaytan, molested multiple students, sometimes during school hours and in his classroom. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the sexual abuse of three students.
- 2017: A four-year-old was allegedly assaulted at Boone Elementary in AISD. However, officials ruled that the child likely suffered injuries from a playground accident. Several parents then reported similar incidents at Boone, lawyers said.
AISD released the following statement Friday afternoon:
"The Ayon v. AISD lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice by federal judge Pittman on March 31, 2020, because the plaintiff did not allege sufficient facts to demonstrate that AISD had a policy permissive of sexual abuse, and AISD was not deliberately indifferent in training its bus drivers and bus monitors. Judge Pittman entered a final judgment on April 3, 2020, in favor of AISD. On April 29, 2020, plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, or in the alternative, a motion for a new trial. The plaintiff’s motion is still pending. Due to the ongoing litigation, and the privacy rights of those involved, AISD is not at liberty to discuss the facts of the case at this time."
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