Education

Lawsuit: Texas School District Tried To Hide Sexual Assault Accusations Against Bus Driver

(Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Chrissy Clark Education Reporter
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A mother is suing a Texas school district for allegedly failing to intervene as her two daughters were sexually abused by a bus driver for nearly nine months, according to litigation filed in a Collin County court.

The mother filed the litigation after her daughters, aged five and seven at the time, said they were being sexually abused by their bus driver. The girls’ parents allege that Prosper Independent School District engaged in a coverup and that the district “was willfully indifferent in recognizing, preventing, and interceding” the suspicion and actual instances of sexual misconduct, according to the litigation.

“Jane Doe” alleges that district Superintendent Holly Ferguson told the mother to keep quiet about the incidents “so as not to attract media attention to her family or Prosper ISD staff,” according to The Dallas Morning News.

The lawsuit alleges that the girls were assaulted more than 100 times by bus driver Frank Paniagua between September 2021 and May 2022. The assaults took place on video surveillance, according to the lawsuit. “This horrific abuse occurred every day that the girls rode the bus to school and was shockingly captured on bus surveillance video,” the lawsuit reads. The parents, who remain anonymous, dubbed the abuse “appalling negligence of Prosper ISD and its administrators.”

“For months, teachers at the bus and car drop-off lines noticed Paniagua keeping Janie Doe 1 on the bus—alone—for an additional three to five minutes every morning she rode the bus but did or said nothing,” the litigation continues.

About 100 school buses are parked at the Arlington County Bus Depot, in response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak on March 31, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. - Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have decided to close schools in response to the coronavirus pandemic, affecting nearly 55 million students and seven US states have closed school for the remainder of the year, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the country. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Paniagua reportedly helped the five-year-old girl buckle and unbuckle her seatbelt and would assault her, according to the litigation. The bus driver allegedly gave the girl a piece of candy each time she exited the bus.

The lawsuit called the abuse of the seven-year-old girl “far more extensive and brazen.” The bus driver allegedly “systematically ensured Janie Doe 1 was the last student off the bus so he could assault her at the back of the bus for three to five minutes every morning that she was on his bus.” Paniagua reportedly told Prosper ISD staff that the older daughter was “picking up trash” causing her delayed exit from the bus each morning.

On May 11, Paniagua was arrested and booked on several charges. He attempted suicide in jail and was released into his family’s custody, according to the litigation. He died on June 10.

Prosper ISD told the Daily Caller that the district took “swift and thorough action when we were first made aware of the allegation against this former employee.” A spokesperson said the district is unable to offer additional information amid the pending litigation. (RELATED: Parent Group Sues Iowa School District Over Gender Ideology Requirements)

“We are horrified that an employee violated the trust of our families and students, as Prosper ISD’s foremost priority is to protect our students’ safety and well-being at all times,” a spokesperson told the Daily Caller. “We strongly condemn the actions of any adult who would cause mental or physical harm to a child, and we do not tolerate such behavior.”