Parents in Collin County are outraged amid allegations that a former bus driver sexually assaulted young girls.
On Monday night, Prosper ISD made the move to hire and launch an independent investigation into the assaults. But there’s also concern about how school leaders responded to the alleged abuse in the first place.
Parents and community members crowded into the school board meeting last night to speak out, with more than 30 people addressing the board directly during public comments and calling for transparency into its handling of the situation.
The allegations of abuse were made public less than a week ago when a family filed a lawsuit against the district, seeking more than $5 million in damages. The lawsuit – obtained by NBC 5 – alleges that the bus driver, Frank Paniagua, abused two girls more than 100 times last year. The girls were aged 5 and 7 at the time, according to the lawsuit.
During Monday night’s board meeting, many parents claim they were never contacted about the incidents on the bus.
“Why was I never contacted that my child could have potentially come into contact with a child molester?” said one mother. “Why was I never told any of these things? Don’t you feel like you have a personal responsibility to us as parents, to know that our children could have come in contact with someone who could potentially hurt them?”
According to the lawsuit, there’s also an allegation that superintendent Holly Ferguson suggested the girls’ mother keep quiet “so as to not attract media attention to her family or to Prosper ISD staff.”
Ferguson did not respond to requests for comment about that from our content partners at the Dallas Morning News. However, her staff issued a statement last week condemning the actions lined out in the suit.
Either way, parents are upset and calling for the immediate resignation of the superintendent and other administrators.
“I’m outraged about the lack of transparency from you elected officials. You’re here to protect our children. We trust you each and every day with them and the fact that there was no notification makes my blood boil,” said one father.
The school board responded to parents with a statement read aloud during the school board meeting.
“We understand and share the communities outrage over the allegations that a former Prosper ISD employee sexually abused students,” said board president drew Wilborn. “It is our understanding that Prosper ISD administrators took swift action upon receiving a complaint about this former employee. These actions included communications with law enforcement officials, CPS, and parents in the district.”
The lawsuit does not name the elementary school the girls attended but states that the alleged abuse was captured on surveillance footage.
According to court filings, the accused bus driver was arrested in May and booked into the Collin County jail on charges of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child Victim Under 14, and Indecency with a Child Sexual Contact. The lawsuit states Paniagua made an attempt on his own life in jail and later died from his injuries.