Teen burglary case sheds light on bigger issue

SUGAR LAND, TX Kids are skipping school at an alarming rate, and the result is afternoon crime all over the Houston area. Our investigation should be lesson for all schools.

Part of a burglary crime spree caught on tape shows a kid going to the back door of a house in Sugar Land and he doesn't have a key. Thieves would haunt Sugar Land for nearly two weeks, until cops got a break.

"We got a call of a burglary in progress," Sugar Land Police Department Capt. Stuart Denton said. "Patrol units were in area, responded immediately and took three of them in custody."

All the suspects went to school here at Kempner High School in Fort Bend ISD.

On the videotape, the time reads 1:35 on a weekday afternoon. That's the start of seventh period over at Kempner High.

"We rely heavily on the school district to supervise the kids while they're at school," Denton said.

So was this just another case of kids skipping school, looking for trouble? Sure.

But maybe there's a bigger story here.

"Someone has to bring to light what's being hidden at this school," said a teacher, who ABC13 is identifying only as "Stressed Teacher."

Three days before police announced they've busted the burglary ring, 13 Undercover gets an email from Stressed Teacher at Kempner High.

"Someone," she tells us, "is going to get hurt."

"Property was showing up. Kids were able to get you whatever you want from cell phones to iPods, so we knew something was going on."

Then news of the arrest hit Channel 13.

All four suspects are students from Kempner High School. Only one is old enough to name -- 17-year-old Jordan Cantu.

"If they were caught burglarizing homes, they weren't in class," said Mike McKie, assistant superintendent for high schools at Fort Bend ISD.

You would think. But we've got Jordan Cantu's attendance record, and the blank spaces mean he's present and accounted for.

Remember the date of some of the burglaries -- March 10? Cantu's attendance record shows he was in class that afternoon.

"Anytime a student is not marked absent when in fact they're absent from school, that's an issue. That's a huge red flag," McKie said.

Another suspect in the Sugar Land burglary spree was a 10th grader. He's also shown present in classes during times when suspected burglaries occurred.

"The records are very important to us," Denton said.

After going to the first four classes, the student is shown missing fifth period. Minutes later, about a mile from school, the burglars hit Abbey Lane.

But miraculously, Kempner attendance records show the student is back in class for sixth and seventh period, while there were more attempted burglaries.

"There were several people that failed to mark the student absent during the course of those two days," McKie said.

In Fort Bend County, parents are notified by phone when their student is missing from class. But sloppy attendance records could mean parents may never know their kids aren't in school.

And when 13 Undercover's Wayne Dolcefino asked McKie, "This attendance record is an alibi for those kids?" he nodded his head.

The four suspects have something else in common. They were all student athletes on the Kempner football roster, the Maroon Goons. The head coach is James Brown, responsible for seventh period athletics.

"It's common knowledge that you could walk out in the hall in seventh period in a certain area of the school and see hundreds of kids loitering, not where they are supposed to be," Stressed Teacher said.

Stressed Teacher may have issues with Kempner High, but the attendance records do raise lots of questions.

"You see tardy students all day long, yet no records reflect they're tardy," Stressed Teacher said. "You see students that are absent, yet the records don't reflect they're absent. Something terrible is going to happen... Something terrible has already happened."

All the students have now withdrawn from school.

One of them has a MySpace page and a favorite song -- "Take me to Jail." Well, they did.

On Friday at 10pm, are parents getting the truth from their school about where there kids are during the school day? We have some amazing numbers we'll show you.
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