then-15-year-old Adam Cooper was sentenced to nine months in
a Texas juvenile prison--or
"school," as some like to call it there.
Two-and-a-half years later he was still incarcerated. Why?
Because he refused to give in to the sexual
propositions of two male administrators.
And Cooper was
far from alone. As The Advocate first reported
in the May 22 issue, an investigation launched in 2005
by the Texas Rangers, the state's elite law
enforcement agency, revealed that assistant
superintendent Ray Brookins and principal John Paul
Hernandez used their power over release dates to bargain for
sex with countless young men under their care at the West
Texas State School in rural Pyote. This year in April
they were indicted on 23 counts--ranging from
sexual assault to improper relationships with
students--for their involvement with six inmates in
particular, ages 16 to 19, in 2004 and 2005.
It was a gay man
from Midland, Marc Slattery, who blew the whistle on
their misdeeds after witnessing them as a volunteer math
tutor at the school. Six months into his tenure there
in 2004, Slattery started hearing stories: kids
huffing Freon and drinking on the roof of the gym with
Hernandez; kids partying after hours with Brookins in the
administration building--kids paying the sexual price
to keep on track for release.
the hearsay to a security staffer and to the
superintendent in charge of the facility. But nothing
happened: The security staffer told Slattery not to
believe a word out of any kid's mouth, while
the superintendent said the scenarios were inconceivable.
Then one February
evening in 2005, Slattery was leaving campus about half
an hour after the 8 p.m. curfew and paused at the guardhouse
that separated the locked areas from the
administration building. Suddenly, the guard's
radio sprang to life with a call from Brookins to the
school's business manager, Mike Kirby.
Mr. Brookins scream over the radio about why the kids
weren't in the administration building
yet," Slattery, 47, tells The Advocate.
"I looked at the guard and I said
'What's this? Is this what I've been
hearing about?' " The guard said yes.
8:45, Brookins called yet again," Slattery says,
"screaming even louder for them. I watched, and
I saw Mike Kirby hustling real fast with five kids and
bringing them in."
Stunned, the math
teacher turned onto a frontage road that took him
alongside the administration building. He saw the five kids
through a window in the lit conference room.
"They'd all taken their jackets off, and
at least one of them had taken his shirt off, and I thought,
No, this is really not happening."
The next day
Slattery called the Texas Rangers and got the attention of
Sgt. Brian Burzynski, who went to the school to investigate.
That April, having gathered detailed reports from
students and staff, Burzynski recommended to the local
district attorney that charges be filed against both
Brookins and Hernandez.
immediately resigned, but the district attorney essentially
shelved the case. The Texas Youth Commission conducted its
own investigation and also found that the
administrators had abused their positions, but that
internal review stagnated as well.
until this February that the case resurfaced, when a Texas
state senator brought up the subject during routine budget
hearings. Local papers jumped on the story, triggering
a statewide scandal and a top-to-bottom overhaul of
the Texas Youth Commission.
As for Cooper,
now a 20-year-old who identifies as gay, he was finally
released in November 2005 when the parole board realized how
long he had served. He talks about the time he spent
at the school only reluctantly, acknowledging he was
indeed "abused" but declining to go into
details. Anguish is audible in his voice.
meanwhile, has been hailed as a hero for his part in busting
Brookins and Hernandez--although that esteem was
tarnished somewhat by the revelation in March that he
was arrested in 1986 at age 26, accused of attempting
to sexually assault a 17-year-old boy. Slattery ended up
pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and received
probation--and he says he was up-front about his
record when he applied to be a volunteer. The Youth
Commission reportedly is now investigating why he was
allowed to volunteer in the first place.
Slattery would like the focus to remain on the victims at
the school. "Remember, it's just about the
kids," he says. "I got put in an
incredible position when nobody else would do anything. The
staff knew what was going on and they did nothing. It
pissed me off that it took a volunteer, willing to
risk everything, for these kids. I did the right