Parents of children in the Texas Boys Choir and the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts woke up Friday to an alarming message — that a choir volunteer had ties to a molestation case in California in the 1980s.
The message was from Clint Riley, president and CEO of the Texas Center for Arts + Academics, which oversees four academic and arts programs, including the Texas Boys Choir and the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts. The academy has long been a well-regarded public charter school.
Students who participate in the Texas Boys Choir are students at the academy.
Riley's message, sent via email about midnight Friday, outlined how two men who made news in the 1980s were allowed to work near children in Fort Worth.
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"Several questions have come to me by email in the past 48 hours dealing with the same topic," Riley wrote. "In the interest of transparency, I am releasing this statement to clarify the situation and to share our response to concerns."
The message outlines how in the summer of 2016, the then-director of the Texas Boys Choir, or TBC, invited one of the volunteers to assist with a production. Before the volunteer service began, the staff conducted a name-based, statewide criminal background check on one of the volunteers, Riley said.
"This type of background check is required for volunteers and is routinely carried out by school districts and charter schools throughout the state of Texas," Riley stated in the message. Riley also said that a friend assisted the volunteer on occasion.
In February 2017, a parent told the choir director that media reports were discovered about an arrest and conviction in California linked to the volunteer. Those concerns were reported to Riley, who suspended any more volunteer work from the man. Since then, the volunteer has been instructed to have no interaction with the choir, Riley said.
Asked about the case, the volunteer said he is innocent.
Reached by Facebook Messenger he stated: "I was FALSELY ACCUSED. I did not molest anyone, and the end of the court case was an exoneration and expungement of the record. There WAS no 'previous molestation case.' I understand the parents' feelings, and want to reassure them their sons were never in any danger."
The message to parents states that the volunteer "...was interviewed and the case report was reviewed by legal counsel, but it was not possible to ascertain from the documentation the precise and final legal outcome of the proceedings."
Los Angeles County officials said the records were not computerized and, therefore, not readily available.
The case prompted one parent to file a complaint with the Texas Education Agency. Its offices were closed Friday.
"We never met these people and they were around our children everyday," said Phil Harvey, the parent of one child who used to be in the choir.
Parents said their No. 1 concern is safety and making sure Texas Center for Arts + Academics has a strong vetting process.
“If I were a Boys Choir parent, I would be very upset to wake up and see that email and not have been informed a year ago that my child had access to these men,” said Amy Trotter, a parent who has a child at the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts.
Pat Hardy, a member of the State Board of Education, said parents had reached out to her with concerns about how volunteers are vetted. She said she forwarded the concerns to the Texas commissioner of education.