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Police documents say top officials at Trinity School of Midland failed to report sexual assault

In 2019, a middle school student was allegedly assaulted and harassed by a classmate over the course of months. Initially, a leader at Trinity described it as a “he said she said incident.”

Now, she's come forward with her story and four leaders at the school have been charged with a felony for attempting to conceal the abuse.

By Mitch Borden

Four top officials at Trinity School of Midland were arrested on Friday after a former student came forward and detailed months of abuse by a classmate to authorities.

Shelby Hannah, the head of Trinity, Todd Freese, a dean of students, Chrystal Meyers, the head of middle school and Adrienne Cliffton, Assistant Head of Administration face up to two years in state jail for attempting to conceal these incidents.

On Tuesday, the former Trinity student was interviewed by authorities at the Midland Children's Advocacy Center. Midland’s Police Chief Seth Herman told the Midland Reporter-Telegram, the teenage girl came forward after hearing about administrators at another private Christian school in Midland being arrested after allegedly concealing the sexual assault of a student.

She detailed multiple incidents to investigators where she was grabbed, held and molested by a classmate over the course of months before her parents pulled her out of Trinity.

The last incident occurred mid-December in 2019 during a class while the teacher was out of the room. According to police documents, the boy who allegedly assaulted her forced his hand into her pants while other students were in the classroom.

The former student, who was under the age of 14 at the time, recounted that she teared up as she shook her head indicating that the boy should stop.

Then Todd Freese, the middle school’s dean of students, was informed of the assault. The next day the former student spoke to Freese and explained what had happened and detailed other encounters with this classmate that dated back to the fall.  The former student’s parents were aware that something inappropriate was going on between their daughter and another student, but it wasn’t until Dec. 17, 2019 that they understood the full scope of the harassment.

The parents then went to the school to meet with Freese who downplayed the assault. According to his arrest affidavit, Freese said he had interviewed the boy who attacked their daughter, but went on to say it was a “he said she said situation.”

The former student’s parents, on Jan. 15, 2020, had another meeting with Dean Freese and Chrystal Myers, the head of the middle school. There, the parents confronted the officials about the fact that their daughter still had to attend class with the boy who attacked her.

Freese and Myers said they would address this and stated that Shelby Hammer, the top official at Trinity, was unaware of the incident. But the former student’s mother countered that she had already emailed Hammer detailing what had happened to her daughter.

By Jan. 22, 2020, the parents were able to meet with Hammer and Adrianne Clifton, Assistant Head of Administration. They explained what had happened to their daughter to Hammer while Clifton took notes. At this time, Hammer, Clifton, Freese and Myers were all aware of the alleged assault and were mandated by state law to report it, which police documents claim they did not.

The COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing by the spring of 2020 and students were forced to begin remote learning. By the Fall, however, in-person classes resumed and the former student continued to see the boy who had assaulted her. At this time, her parents decided to take her out of Trinity.

Hammer then sent the parents a “Confidential Waiver and Release of all Claims” form on Sept. 18, 2020.  If signed, the parents would receive a partial refund of the tuition they had paid for the 2020-2021 school year.

The parents believed this document was Trinity’s way of preventing them from coming after the school for their daughter's assault.

The waiver stated its intent was to “avoid the time, expense and inconvenience attendant upon litigation between them and without admission of liability or wrongdoing of any kind of anyone.”

The police affidavit states that the former student’s parents hired an attorney but eventually “gave up and did not want to take the right away from her to talk about what happened to her.”

Hammer, Clifton, Freese and Myers face up to two years in a state jail for failing to report abuse or neglect and trying to conceal it.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.