EL PASO, Texas - El Paso Independent School District interim superintendent Terri Jordan said she is deeply troubled by an email by former associate superintendent Damon Murphy that directly showed his attempt to wrongfully hold students in the ninth grade.
Murphy is the current superintendent of Canutillo Independent School District.
In the Aug. 12, 2008 email from Murphy to Bowie High School principal Jesus Chavez and other principals and directors, Murphy said "A student coming in from out-of-country should be placed in 9th grade regardless of out-of-country transcript notations. The student may accelerate to a higher grade level based upon those out-of-country transcript notations, but not during the initial year of U.S. enrollment in EPISD."
"Ladies and gentleman, that is a stunning and deeply troubling directive from a former top official of this school district," Jordan said in a statement. "Such an order disregards district policy and causes great harm to children who have received some education in another country and who should be immediately placed in the correct grade. To order such students held in the 9th grade for an entire year is unconscionable. The email directive from Murphy is especially troubling when considered in light of the district's own internal audit and the ongoing federal investigation into whether students were improperly retained in ninth grade or promoted to the 11th grade to avoid being tested in 10th grade and counted as part of the school's rating Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind education law."
ABC7 made numerous attempts to reach out to Murphy and approached him at the El Paso Airport, on his way back from a teaching conference in Boston.
Murphy denied any knowledge of the allegations of district policy violations during his employment as EPISD Associate Superintendent.
"I'm in no position to comment," said Murphy. "Even if i wanted to, I don't know even what really happened."
Students attending Bowie High elaborated on the experiences of fellow students from Mexico, who they claimed, had been promoted or held back due to their inability to speak English.
"I actually have a friend who was a freshman, and two years ago he learned more English...and right now hes a senior," said Bowie High Junior, Eric Aguilera. "He was (kept back originally) then skipped just one grade."
Aguilera said he friend skipped over his sophomore year at Bowie.
Another Bowie High student, who did not give his name, described a similar situation,"(My friend) was coming from J-Town (Juarez) and he got into school, but he was supposed to be a freshman, but they pulled him up to his junior year."
But Bowie High junior Heriberto Garcia said the allegations of grade manipulation by administrators are false.
"I've been here 3 years and I find it very shocking," said Garcia. "(People) don't expect much from us, but yet when we do exceed very high up, they're like, 'Well, they're from Bowie, they must have cheated somehow.'"
EPISD urges employees, students, or members of the public to anonymously report any potential student records problems at 1-800-620-8591.
Read the full email from Murphy here.