As La Vernia ISD operates in secret, past allegations emerge against superintendent

Board president says she does not regret reinstating Lovette after past probe

LA VERNIA, Texas – La Vernia Independent School District's superintendent was placed on leave last year and reinstated less than three weeks later despite a string of allegations of inappropriate behavior at work, records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show.

Dr. Trent Lovette, hired by the district in early 2018, was placed on leave last November and then brought back to his position in early December following an investigation by the district.

Over the past nine months, district officials have refused to discuss the investigation publicly or to release any records related to it.

However, a letter from the Texas Attorney General's Office released to the Defenders Thursday afternoon by the district's law firm confirms that Lovette was given a written reprimand as part of the investigation.

The AG ruled that the district could withhold a copy of the written reprimand as well as other records related to its probe of Lovette late last year.

However, a source associated with the investigation provided the Defenders details of the alleged incidents as well as the names of the eight district employees who either witnessed Lovette's actions, were the target of his actions or complained about his actions. 

At least one of the employees has since left the district.

A written timeline of incidents leaked to the Defenders outlined the following allegations against Lovette:

  • Aug. 2018 - After a female employee shared with Lovette that she had a wife, he texted a GIF to two staff members of two women making out. One of the staff members who received the text described it as "inappropriate."
  • Sept. 2018 - While discussing annual required training on bloodborne pathogens Lovette said, "We were just wondering if you could get HIV from breast milk."
  • Oct. 2018 - During a facilities walk at the high school, staff members caught two students displaying public affection. A female staff member redirected the students to class. When Lovette noticed another student head that way, he stated something to the effect of "getting a threesome on." The female staff member reported that the comment made her uncomfortable.
  • Nov. 2018 - Lovette told a female employee a story from his previous district about two students caught on camera having sex. Lovette described the sex act in graphic detail. The female employee said Lovette going into details about the incident was unnecessary and completely grossed her out. The female employee said Lovette appeared to enjoy retelling the details of the story.
  • Nov. 2018 - The same female employee said another employee who was asked to help Lovette troubleshoot his work computer saw inappropriate videos of a sexual nature on the right side of the screen on Lovette's YouTube account.
  • Nov. 2018 - After a fellow employee mentioned the tight football jersey Lovette was wearing, he responded, "(Redacted) is coming down this weekend and she'll get it off." The employee then said Lovette "caught himself."

District officials ignored a noon deadline on Thursday to make Lovette available for an on-camera interview about the 2018 allegations.

Cheerleader says she was touched inappropriately

An incident report released by the Sinton Police Department Thursday indicates that a female cheerleader at La Vernia High School accused Lovette of inappropriately touching her back during an away football game last Friday.

FIRST REPORT: La Vernia cheerleader reported superintendent to police

The teen told police "she felt a hand slide back and forth on her lower back" as she stood on the track. The teen thought it was a fellow cheerleader but then realized it was Lovette, according to the report.

The teen told an officer at the scene that it was an "uninviting touch and made her feel uncomfortable," the report states.

It does not appear Lovette has been criminally charged in connection with the incident.

READ MORE: La Vernia ISD school board to consider firing superintendent

La Vernia ISD's board of trustees has called a meeting for Friday night to discuss Lovette's status with the district, including possible dismissal, according to a copy of the meeting's agenda.

"No, no, not at all."

The Defenders spoke with La Vernia ISD board President Cynthia Buerkle via telephone Wednesday night.

When asked if she regretted reinstating Lovette last year now that he has been involved in another incident, Buerkle said, "No, no. Not at all."

After the Defenders described the 2018 allegations against Lovette, Buerkle said, "I know. I'm just not at liberty to ... You can discuss this with our attorney. I'm not going to address anything specific like that."

Two La Vernia residents who spoke with the Defenders Thursday said the board had more than enough evidence to get rid of Lovette last year. 

9-month fight for records

A day after Lovette was reinstated last December, the Defenders requested a copy of the investigation into his alleged actions.

The district, through its legal counsel, declined to release any records related to it, and instead, in January, asked the state attorney general to withhold records of it, claiming it was confidential.

The Defenders never received a copy of the AG's ruling and filed a complaint this summer asking for a status update.

On August 22, an official with the AG's office sent the district a letter stating that their records did not indicate a request for a ruling had been made in accordance with the public information act.

An attorney representing the school district, however, found that the AG had, in fact, ruled on the request in late March.

She provided a copy of the AG's ruling to the Defenders Thursday.

The attorney said her office was working to determine if it would have to release any information from the district's investigation of Lovette.

Texas Attorney General's ruling on Dr. Lovette investigation



About the Authors:

Dillon Collier

Dillon is a Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year. His relentless work includes uncovering the misuse of funds within a local housing authority and prompting a congressional inquiry at Fort Sam Houston.