Nebraska school officials accused of covering up sexual abuse

Authorities have accused a Nebraska school superintendent, principal and coach of failing to report the alleged sexual assault of a young high school wrestler by several teammates last summer.

The Nebraska State Patrol on Tuesday cited the three Maxwell Public Schools officials — Superintendent Danny Twarling, Principal Aubrey Boucher, and head wrestling coach Ryan Jones — for suspicion of failure to report child abuse or neglect, which is a misdemeanor.

Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling didn't immediately return a Friday phone message enquiring whether her office was considering charging the officials or the alleged assailants. Patrol Lt. Lynn Williams said that as of Friday, no legal action had been taken against any of the Maxwell High School team members.

Patrol Investigator Carlos Trevino, in an affidavit, said several members of the wrestling team were present during the alleged attack at a wrestling camp last summer. According to the alleged victim and two boys who said they witnessed but didn't take part in the attack, two team members held down the younger boy while another sodomized him with a soda bottle. On another occasion, at least one team member allegedly groped the victim on a school bus, Trevino said.

Last month, state troopers exercised a search warrant on Maxwell High School and seized personnel files, correspondence and other records. In the warrant, investigators said they expected to find evidence of reported sexual abuse or assaults, intimidation, inappropriate touching and language, and hazing at the school.

Twarling, reached Friday by phone, read a statement confirming that district employees were served with citations on Tuesday.

"The school district maintains that it adheres to both the state law and district policy and reports all incidents of abuse and neglect to the proper authorities when there is reasonable cause to make such a report as provided under Nebraska law," Twarling said.

He declined to comment further or answer questions. Neither Boucher nor Jones immediately responded to phone messages and emails Friday seeking comment.

Authorities began investigating following a call to a child abuse hotline, said Williams, who declined to say who placed the call or what was discussed.

According to the affidavit, a woman from the district brought the alleged camp assault to the attention of the principal, Boucher, writing in a letter that her family members wouldn't be enrolled in the district because she had seen video of the attack.

Williams said investigators haven't seen such video, and he wouldn't say whether investigators believe it exists. The affidavit doesn't explain who might have recorded the assault.

The woman told investigators that Boucher contacted her after receiving her letter and told her "he would get to the bottom of it." She said she tried following up with Boucher over the next two days, but that he was never available to take her calls and he never returned her messages.

The woman said she asked the boy if he had told his coach about the assault, and that the boy "said he was told, 'What happens in wrestling, stays in wrestling.'" It's unclear from the affidavit whether the boy said he did tell the coach and whether it was the coach who allegedly responded that way.

Two students told investigators that they told Boucher that they witnessed the abuse, Trevino said in the affidavit. The alleged victim told investigators that Boucher called him a liar and "a rumor spreader."

Both Boucher and Twarling told investigators that they knew of the sexual assault accusations and that they had determined that the accusations were unfounded. Nebraska teachers, administrators, medical professionals and others in positions of authority are required by law to report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement.