In the book “Friday Night Lights,” Permian High School had a dark side that never quite made it into the TV series of the same name. Many in Odessa, Tex., where the football classic by H.G. Bissinger takes place, didn’t like the portrayal — or the attention.
Some of the city’s natives said the book inaccurately painted the West Texas town as the home of rednecks and racists, where more value was placed on a night on the football field than on a day in the classroom. Others argued that representation is spot on.
Regardless, now the spotlight is on the school once again.
But unlike the fictional TV show, which puts the school in a pretend Texas football town called Dillon, the scandals unraveling at the school over the past year or so — and culminating in tragedy this week — are real.
Since spring 2013, five staffers at the school have come under criminal scrutiny for alleged improper relationships with their students. Two resigned last year and were indicted on felony counts. One stepped down last month and another last week.
The shocker came Thursday when the school announced that a longtime teacher committed suicide after being questioned this week about his alleged relationship with a female student — marking the fifth student-teacher sex scandal here in the past year.
Mark Lampman, 47, taught government and coached girls golf for 17 years at Permian.
Ector County school district spokesman Mike Adkins said that the school learned of the accusation Tuesday and that Lampman resigned right after he was questioned, the Associated Press reported. Although school officials did not describe his reported relationship with the student in detail, they said it was an improper one.
Then on Wednesday, oil workers found Lampman dead in a field with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, the Odessa American reported. Medical examiner Anne Acreman told the newspaper his body was sent to another county for an autopsy.
Adkins responded in a statement:
Another allegation of this sort is alarming and disappointing. … The school district provides training to address this issue each year, and we plan more in the future. Our teachers are hired to teach, support, and inspire our students to great achievement and it is unacceptable to an educator to cross the line from professional to personal relationship. We are glad these allegations are being reported, and we investigate every report that comes to us. We will do everything in our power to address this immediately.
And Permian students took to Twitter, many showing support for Lampman and a few criticizing a student he reportedly had a relationship with. The school tweeted:
Out of respect for the families involved in today’s tragedy, we are asking all to refrain from inappropriate, hateful posts to social media.
— Ector County ISD (@EctorCountyISD) May 8, 2014
The Odessa American ran a chronology, starting in 2013 with Kathryn Maples, a former history teacher who also coached swimming and diving at the school. She was 28 when she was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old male student. NBC News reported that she is accused of sending the student explicit photos and a lewd text message. She resigned during the investigation.
Several weeks later, then-28-year-old April Collins, an athletic trainer, stepped down after similar allegations. An indictment claims that Collins sent pictures of herself along with some steamy text messages to a 19-year-old student, NBC News reported, and she allegedly offered to rent a room where the two could have sex.
An Ector County grand jury indicted Maples on three charges of an improper relationship between an educator and a student. Collins was indicted on four counts, accusing her of an improper relationship between a teacher and a student, and the charges include sending sexually explicit pictures and online solicitation of a student, according to the Odessa American. The second-degree felony could carry between two and 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, the newspaper said.
No trial date has been set for either case, the newspaper reported.
Last month, an employee at the school resigned after parents and students claimed she was having a relationship with a student. The school district declined to give her name.
Last week, 25-year-old assistant softball coach Alisha Carrasco Knighten gave her resignation amid an investigation of a possible improper relationship with a student.
Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said he has not gotten case files for the two most recent cases.
Lampman was the fifth.
On Wednesday, Superintendent Tom Crowe spoke to Permian faculty.
“I told them, we believe in you. We support you, the board supports you. What you do, 99.9 percent are in it for the right reasons,” Crowe told the Odessa American.
Normally, a series of events like these at a high school in Odessa would be news, but likely only in Texas. It’s the school’s notoriety that has pulled it into national headlines, and it has upset some — a few who have called out on Twitter.
I hate that the news about our school is going national. I wish they would respect Mr. Lampman’s family at this time. It’s so disrespectful.
— ari (@arianaabila) May 9, 2014