Crime

EPISD trial continues; Mother tells jury she was told her son should drop out

EPISD trial continues

EL PASO, Texas - Testimony continued Tuesday in the trial of five former El Paso Independent School District administrators accused of taking part in the district's cheating scandal that included the parent of a former Austin High School student on the stand.

Laura Alvarado, whose son Aaron Lopez was a freshman at the school in 2006, testified that former Austin High principal John Tanner, one of four former Austin principals facing charges, proved difficult to get a meeting with about her son's struggles in school. She said she finally approached him at a football game his junior year.

"(Tanner) told me he wasn't an accountable student at school," Alvarado testified. "He told me it would be best for him to drop out."

Former EPISD Associate Superintendent James Anderson, Tanner and assistant principal Mark Tegmeyer are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government. Former Austin assistant principal Diane Thomas is charged with retaliating against a witness or a victim. Former Austin assistant principal Nancy Love is charged with retaliating against a witness or victim and false declaration before a grand jury.

According to court documents, the cheating scandal was designed to allegedly artificially inflate schools' federal accountability scores.

The administrators allegedly engaged in schemes designed to discourage at-risk students from registering in schools, to underrepresent at-risk student populations within the schools, fraudulently award class credits to students to falsely increase graduation rates of schools, change attendance records of students, and manipulate students grade levels to avoid state accountability tests.

Under cross examination by defense attorneys, Alvarado explained her son dropped out, but eventually got his GED in 2011 from Sunset School.

The government also called Carlos Martinez from the U.S. Department of Education to the stand to testify on Tuesday.

Martinez spent a lot of time being asked about whether standards in the No Child Left Behind Act are under the direction of the federal or state government.

Attorneys for both Tanner and Anderson have already filed appeals arguing the case should not have been filed by U.S. prosecutors in federal court since individual states are responsible for overseeing education standards.

Anderson's attorney Robert Perez asked Martinez: "No child left behind was not intended to let the federal government run schools was it?"

Martinez answered: "That is correct."

Perez than asked: "The federal government is not supposed to tell the state how to run schools is it?"

Martinez answered: "In general I have to say yes. If you don't do the things the government is asking they do, we do have the right to withdraw money. But we don't tell states how to do things."

Testimony in front of the jury of six men and six women continued Tuesday afternoon. According to court documents, more than 200 witnesses could be called to testify in the case.


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