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Former Midland Christian School leaders face felony charges for allegedly trying to conceal the assault of a child — again

Midland Christian School
Mitch Borden
Marfa Public Radio
Midland Christian School has grown over the past 65 years from a school that served a handful of students to hundreds.

A grand jury recently indicted Midland Christian School's former Superintendent Jared Lee, former Principal Dana Ellis and current teacher Matthew Counts on state jail felonies for allegedly attempting to conceal the assault of a child. The three educators were arrested on similar charges in February, but those were eventually dropped.

For the second time this year, current and former Midland Christian School officials have been accused of attempting to conceal the assault of a child.

After previously being arrested in February on similar charges, which were eventually dropped, former Midland Christian Superintendent Jared Lee, former Principal Dana Ellis and current teacher Matthew Counts could once again face two years in state jail.

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, a Midland County grand jury indicted the three for allegedly failing to report and intending to conceal that a child was assaulted at the school.

Midland County District Attorney Laura Nodolf told Marfa Public Radio in a written statement that the event that led to the arrests involved a child who “was struck in the head with a baseball bat.”

Court documents state this incident took place last year in mid-November and that all three administrators allegedly knew about the incident, but did not report it to the proper authorities, which is required by state law.

Nodolf stated, police began investigating these allegations after the parents of the child came forward and detailed the incident to law enforcement. If convicted Lee, Ellis and Counts could face up to two years in state jail.

So far, leadership at the private school are supporting Lee, Ellis and Counts.

In a message to parents, Jason Stockstill, Midland Christian’s School board president declared his support for the three while describing the incident in question as an “accident.”

“The charges brought against [Counts], [Lee], and [Ellis] are false based on the facts as we know them.” Stockstill continued, “We stand in complete support of an aggressive defense of their innocence."

He also said the school leaders are working to make sure Counts will be able to keep teaching at Midland Christian.

“The Board of Trustees has diligently worked through the proper channels to ensure that [Counts] is allowed to remain on our campus, serving in his role as an educator and coach, while he awaits due process,” Stockstill wrote.

Following the indictments, the Midland Police Department has faced increased scrutiny over their police conduct while investigating the Midland Christian officials.

“This feels like a clear vendetta,” said Courtney Garrison, who joined other concerned parents last week to address Midland City Council about the situation. She continued “We are all here today to request…an independent review into the police department's policies, procedures and primarily this specific personnel regarding this case.”

Supporters of Midland Christian were also joined by advocates for another private school in Midland where administrators are also facing similar criminal charges for a separate incident.

Part of the reason there are questions swirling around the Midland Christian investigation is that these  recent charges resemble allegations the three educators faced earlier this year in February. 

Investigators arrested Lee, Ellis, Counts and two other leaders of the school for allegedly concealing the sexual assault of a student who the police believed was attacked by a classmate following a high school baseball practice in January. These charges were eventually dropped after a grand jury chose not to indict the educators.

However, the five officials then filed a lawsuit against the city and three police officers involved in the investigation. They alleged the police made false claims during their investigation and violated their constitutional rights.

Attorney’s for the City of Midland countered by asking for the case to be dismissed, claiming the five officials didn’t have grounds to sue the city.

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