By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
A probe conducted by San Benito Consolidated Independent School District Special Education attorneys Buechler and Associates into allegations that members of the San Benito High School varsity cheerleading squad bullied and discriminated against a handicapped teammate were dismissed as “unsubstantiated,” SBCISD Community Relations Director Celia Longoria announced via a prepared statement on Wednesday.
Austin-based law firm Buechler and Associates was tasked with investigating allegations made in October by 17-year-old Alexandria Hernandez, a senior varsity cheerleader at SBHS who has a prosthetic leg, and Noe Treviño, who identified himself as Hernandez’ uncle and advocate. Treviño has specifically accused senior members of the varsity cheerleaders and their parents of discrimination and bullying for not including Hernandez in a photo.
The photo in question shows 10 of the 21 members of the varsity cheerleaders—all of whom are seniors—and was originally planned for a full page advertisement in the 2013 SBHS football program. The ad, however, was pulled from the program as well as from a scoreboard message, both of which were paid for by parents, when Treviño alleged that Hernandez was selectively excluded due to her handicap.
Colleen Duncan, the 52-year-old parent of one senior cheerleader, and other cheer moms and dads who spoke under anonymity have vehemently denied the allegations. Also, Duncan accused Treviño and Hernandez of being the bullies for what she believes were instances of harassment and assault committed against her and fellow cheerleaders and parents.
Duncan has accused Hernandez of accosting her at the Oct. 11 SBHS pep rally by pulling on the parent’s T-shirt, which displayed the photo Treviño initially raised concerns about, and while shouting profanities blamed Duncan’s apparel for the girl’s alleged cancer. Treviño has argued that Hernandez was driven to the outburst and should not face reprimand as a result.
At least one other parent, Duncan included, filed a report at the San Benito Police Department accusing Treviño of following other cheerleaders in his vehicle and intimidating them. Treviño has denied these allegations, referring to the accusations as “a bunch of lies” and that he doesn’t “have time” to follow cheerleaders.
As media coverage of the dispute intensified, school district officials tasked the special education law firm of Buechler and Associates to conduct an inquiry investigating the allegations of bullying and discrimination levied by Treviño and Hernandez.
In response to a public information request the San Benito News filed with SBCISD on Wednesday, Longoria announced the findings of the investigation via email in a statement prepared by district officials and Buechler and Associates.
“San Benito CISD takes pride in offering a variety of instructional and extracurricular opportunities for all students and as such, highly encourages student participation and student involvement in these activities,” the statement read. “Regarding the cheerleading concerns, the district took immediate measures in an effort to give all parties involved an opportunity to voice their individual concerns. All allegations of discrimination, bullying and harassment have been thoroughly investigated. All allegations regarding cheerleaders have been determined to be unsubstantiated.
“The administration and staff at San Benito CISD work diligently to ensure that the school environment continues to be safe, nurturing and academically focused on meeting the needs of all students in the district.”
Still, Duncan said the cheer squad’s reputation has been damaged as a result of the allegations and what she believes was biased coverage by other local media outlets.
“I am very glad that they showed we didn’t mean any harm to Alex,” Duncan said before criticizing Treviño and the aforementioned media coverage. “They turned it into a black eye for San Benito and made it very harmful to our girls; they’re being told, ‘Those are the bad cheerleaders,’ and whatnot.”
In contrast, Treviño was mum on the matter.
“I haven’t gotten a report back from nobody from school, so I couldn’t answer you even if I wanted to,” Treviño said.
For more on this story, pick up a copy of the Nov. 3 edition of the San Benito News, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.