Wrong Harlandale student questioned by CPS investigators reveals breakdown between agency, school district

CPS spokeswoman claims April 1 interview was ended before investigators got into specific allegations

SAN ANTONIO – A Harlandale High School freshman pulled from class last week to be interviewed by Child Protective Services investigators was not the correct student they were looking for, district officials confirmed this week.

Harlandale ISD officials have now apologized to the 15-year-old’s mother, as more information about the breakdown in information between CPS and the school district comes to light.

He told KSAT a fellow student came into his fourth period class April 1 and said the counselor wanted to see him because he had visitors.

He said he was then taken into a room and two CPS investigators began to ask him questions about himself.

“I was frightened, My hands were sweating a lot. I was scared. My legs were shaking,” said the teen, whose identity is not being revealed by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

A CPS spokeswoman on Friday said the interview was ended before the investigators got into questions of specific allegations, contradicting the teen’s version of what took place.

The teen told KSAT an investigator asked him if his home was safe and said the two employees would be able to tell if what he was saying was the truth or a lie.

“It scared me, it scared me. Because my kid, he’s in a good family. He’s in a good home. He has so many people behind him,” said Angel Lopez, the teen’s mother.

Lopez said district officials apologized after the incident and told her the actual student CPS was attempting to question attends a different school.

“If they would have taken my child, I wouldn’t have known where he was,” said Lopez.

In a statement, a Harlandale ISD spokeswoman told KSAT:

Based on our investigation on the information you requested, CPS did sign in and credentials were verified at the campus front office. Campus administration was not notified, which is an issue we have addressed. They will always be notified going forward. CPS did not have the child’s date of birth so the staff at the front office pulled the student whose name matched their request. Our staff knows that when CPS is on campus to do an investigation they grant them access because the student’s safety could be in danger and their well being is always our priority. When interviewing the child, CPS realized it was the wrong individual. The parents of the child were notified by the administration and have apologized. Mom seemed to be satisfied with the response after speaking with our administration. We want our community to know that our student’s well being is always our main priority and we will continue to do everything we can to make sure that they are being taken care of.

A CPS spokeswoman added Friday that its investigators arrived at Harlandale High School after first contacting the district’s front offices. She added that CPS employees conducting investigations often have limited information on who they are looking for.

The spokeswoman said she was unaware of whether the child investigators were looking for was ever tracked down by investigators.

She said she was unable to release a recording of the interview with the teen or a transcript of it because it is now part of an ongoing investigation.

A second CPS spokesperson released the following statement this week:

We can’t comment on specific cases because of Texas confidentiality laws. CPI (Child Protective Investigations) relies on the information it receives from abuse and neglect reports and from collaterals like schools, doctors, and other resources, to make contact with families. Investigators always verify information with families when speaking with them.

Lopez said she is in the process of filing formal complaints against both the school district and Child Protective Services.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.