The Texas Attorney General's Office has asked the Palestine Independent School District to release a report on a 2017 locker room assault, or obtain a ruling on whether withholding the document violates state public information laws.
In March, the school district denied a request from the Herald-Press for a report on the investigation into the beating of former Palestine High School student and football player Michael Stanczak. School officials cited federal law protecting the confidentiality of students' education records.
Typically, local governments, after they reject a public information request, ask for a ruling from the AG's Office. The AG's Office then has 45 business days to determine whether the public body violated state public information laws.
In this case, however, the school district withheld information, without requesting a ruling from the AG. The May 21 letter from the AG's Office to PISD Superintendent Jason Marshall came in response to an open records complaint by the Herald-Press.
PISD spokesperson Larissa Loveless said Friday the district would respond to the AG's Office on Tuesday by explaining the information is private. “We're not asking for a ruling,'' she said. “It's not public information. By law, we can't release it.”
Even if the district redacted the names of students or staff who were interviewed for the investigation, Loveless said some of the persons involved in the incident are widely known.
“We would open ourselves up to liability,” she said.
Stanczak's father, James Stanczak, said Friday he requested the report, as well as any video of the assault, but also was denied.
The school district has 10 business days after May 21 to provide a written response to the AG's letter.
“Although the OAG has civil enforcement authority under the (Public Information) Act, our office prefers to work with governmental bodies and requestors to resolve complaints informally,” the letter from the AG's Office states. “The easiest way to resolve the open records complaint is to release the requested information, provided the information is not confidential by law.”
Following a football practice in September 2017, Stanczak, now 19, was beaten at Palestine High School by former friend and team mate LeGeorge Gray. Stanczak suffered a severed jaw, broken nose, concussion, and several facial fractures.
Despite the severity of Stanczak's injuries, school staff did not call police or emergency medical services.
After the beating, Stanczak sat for 30 to 45 minutes before a trainer called his parents, Stanczak's father told the Herald-Press. After rushing to the high school, Stanczak's parents drove him to Palestine Regional Medical Center.
James Stanczak said he found his son at the high school, his jaw unhinged and a bone protruding from his mouth, holding a blood-soaked towel.
In March, Gray, 18, was sentenced to 10 years' probation and 141 days in county jail for aggravated assault. A $15 bet on a basketball game triggered the altercation.