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Husband of School Board president accused of battering student — and district kept it quiet

Updated May 3, 2018 - 3:54 pm

A Clark County School District student has accused his teacher of physically assaulting him. The district did everything it could to prevent the public from learning about the allegations, the subsequent police investigation and the transfer of the teacher to another school.

Are you outraged? Consider that the teacher is the husband of Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright.

Conflicts of interest don’t get more obvious — or dangerous — than this. The matter demands that trustees and Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky appoint an independent investigator.

Jayden Zelaya-Ramos, 10 at the time of the incident, is a fifth-grade student at George E. Harris Elementary School. That’s where he says Jason Wright kicked and yanked him in early March. Jayden said his class was in a group outside when he picked up a caterpillar. Jason Wright “kicked my hand” Jayden told me. “He kicked my finger. After then he said, ‘Get in line. Go back to the class.’ He grabbed me by the collar and started pulling me, jerking me around to get me in line.”

The kick left the boy’s pinkie finger “swollen and bruised” according to a police report. The incident happened March 7. The next day, district police conducted a criminal investigation “in reference to a report of a teacher committing a battery upon a student.” Other students completed statements that corroborated Jayden’s story.

School district police investigated further but declined to press charges after Wright refused to talk to the detective. In a written statement submitted eight days after the incident, Wright said he used his “left foot to move (Jayden’s) hand out of the way to protect him from being stung by the bee.”

Wright also acknowledged touching Jayden but claimed he used his “hand to gently but decisively move him.” “Gently but decisively” sounds like lawyer-speak for “forcibly.”

“I was never allowed to know anything, because it was a personnel matter, and I was on a need to know basis … after this man put his hands on my grandson,” said Laura Porras, Jayden’s grandmother. “My thing is that he’s getting away with it, and he’s going to do it to other students.”

Porras said the district moved Wright to another school just days after the incident. District communications chief Kirsten Searer said the move “was in the best interest of all parties.”

Porras said she was unaware at the time that Wright’s wife was president of the School Board, but Harris Assistant Principal Julie Zambas knew.

“I found out from Ms. Zambas, because she was furious about this whole thing,” Porras said. “She was the one that told me you need to file a complaint. She was the one who told me, she said, ‘You know who his wife is, right?’ “I said ‘I have no clue.’ She told me then. I said, ‘Oh, so then we know where this is going. Absolutely nowhere.’ She told me just keep pushing.”

Contacted by the Review-Journal, both Zambas and substitute principal Deb Roberson said they couldn’t comment.

“Superintendent Skorkowsky, Dr. (Mike) Barton, and Trustee Wright have all stated that they did not interfere in the investigation or treat it differently than they would any other investigation,” Searer said.

It’s no surprise that they wouldn’t admit to interfering in a criminal investigation, but the public needs more answers than a perfunctory denial can provide.

When did Trustee Wright find out that district employees were investigating criminal allegations against her husband? Did she ever speak with officers? Did Skorkowsky and Trustee Wright ever discuss the investigation? Did they tell other trustees? How did the district safeguard the integrity of the investigation from the conflicts of interest?

Why didn’t Trustee Wright disclose this weeks ago? Has the district investigated other incidents involving Jason Wright? How can the public be sure that Trustee Wright’s ability to oversee Skorkowsky wasn’t compromised by his employees’ investigation of her husband?

Neither Jason Wright nor Deanna Wright returned phone calls. If they don’t return the calls of an independent investigator, they should both resign.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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