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Case against PSJA PE coach contains conflicting elements

Last Thursday, April 2, the Pharr Police Department sent out a press release that was pretty cut and dried: “On February 13, 2015, the Pharr Police Department learned of an injury to a child which had occurred earlier in the day. Making contact with the victim it was learned that the suspect, Henry Ford PE Teacher Jose Rene Perez, caused bodily injury to the victim. The victim was interviewed at the CAC (child advocacy center) as part of the investigation of the case. Mr. Perez was charged with injury to a child and he was advised to turn himself in. On today’s date (4/2/15), he was arraigned on the charge of injury to a child before the Pharr Municipal Court.He was given a $20,000 PR (personal recognizance) bond and transported to the Hidalgo County Jail. No more information is being released at this time.” But to those in the PSJA community who know “Joe” Perez, the charges are contrary to the man they’ve come to admire during the course of a teaching career that has spanned four decades. In fact, across multiple social media posts over the weekend, the refrain was pretty much the same – nicest guy in the world; sweetest man; one of the best coaches over; seems way out of character; always in a good mood; good man; he was my coach too, don’t believe it; Joe would never hurt a child… PERIOD; my grandkids go there (Henry Ford Elementary) and love him a lot.” Perez has taught and coached at PSJA ISD for approximately 43 years. A few of the social-media posts also pointed out the way education has changed over the years since Perez began his teaching career in the early 1970s: “This is why I got out of education.” And “Nowadays (these) kids have no respect for anyone.” Also, “…parents should be in trouble for not correcting their kids.” And then still a few reminded people: “Let’s look at the whole picture before making a judgment.” Still others mentioned Perez’s age, 67, and questioned how hard it might be at that ageto remain patient in light of the (alleged) ill-behavior by some of the students over whom they have charge. “He is 67 years old. At that age, people should be enjoying their retirement…kids are so difficult to handle nowadays.” Of course, if you love what you do, work beats retirement because it’s not really work, some people will argue. And for the people who know Perez, they’re all in agreement: he’s a guy who loves what he does: teaching/coaching kids at the elementary level. As part of a public information request, The Advance News Journal got a copy earlier this week of the criminal complaint against Perez. Part of it is confusing because its narrative states that on Friday, Feb. 13th, the mother of the child in question (a boy, age 11) received a phone call from a staff member at Ford Elementary who told her that her son had “hit the PE coach (Perez).” But when she arrived at the school, according to the criminal complaint, her son told her that the coach had put some basketballs away, but after that, he (the woman’s son) had removed them and tossed some of the balls to some of his friends. The boy told his mom that the coach (Joe Perez) then got upset and grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him outside of the gym. The boy, according to the criminal complaint, told his mom that once outside the gym, Perez grabbed both of his arms and then “slammed him three to five times against the wall.” According to the same complaint, the mom told Pharr police that according to her son, when the coach pulled him back into the gym, he “hit his right hand on the gym’s door.” Two weeks later, according to the criminal complaint, the boy was taken to the Children’s Advocacy Center (Estrella’s House), located in Edinburg, where a forensics examiner interviewed the boy. His story basically held together with one minor change: his hand got hurt not by hitting it against the door, but because Perez had grabbed his wrist when he pulled him back into the gym. Asked for a clarification as to who hit whom, this week a representative with the Pharr PD wrote in an email to this newspaper: “The school called the mother and reported to her that the kid hit the coach. Kid told his mother a different story.” Asked by this newspaper as to whether any photos had been taken by police that showed any scratches or bruises to the boy, and whether or not the child’s mother sought medical treatment for her son’s alleged injuries, the police spokesman wrote back: “Medical treatment was given to the child.” Currently, Perez is on administrative leave awaiting the outcome of this pending case. By G. Romero Wendorf

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