LITTLE ELM, Texas — Hundreds of parents packed the Little Elm High School auditorium Tuesday night, eager to criticize and question district officials following a student-led protest on Nov. 19 that evolved into chaos on campus.
The district held an official listening session for parents to voice concerns, as the superintendent and assistant superintendent listened too while in attendance.
Comments of many echoed disappointment and demand for fresh direction within the district and the school.
The protest centered around a sexual assault allegation by a current student, who claims her story wasn't investigated thoroughly enough by school officials and the Little Elm Police Department.
Several parents shared personal stories at the listening session, claiming the district wasn't doing enough for victims of sexual assault.
One family even shared a story about their daughter earning a conviction from a jury regarding her accuser, but only after they dealt with inaction from Little Elm ISD.
As students began to walk out almost two weeks ago, their protest got viral attention for the wrong reasons.
Videos began to flood social media showing school resource officers clashing with teens. One video shows an officer pepper-spraying a student and tasing another.
Another video shows a student collapsing to the floor; having a seizure.
Paula Dauro's granddaughter, a junior at the high school, was caught in the mayhem trying to help the student who had collapsed and the teen who was tased.
Dauro shared photos with WFAA showing multiple bruises on her granddaughter's arm, hand, and torso. She said her granddaughter was beaten and pushed around by an officer.
"I thought to myself, here she is protesting assault, and now she's a victim of assault," Dauro said. "She told me that she's going to wear those bruises like a badge of honor because she was doing what was right."
In a video to parents, Superintendent Daniel Gallagher said the protest took a turn when students tried to break into an administrator's office on campus.
Gallagher pointed out during the listening session that he supports planned protests as long as district officials are looped in on everything, saying he helped arrange a student-led BLM rally following the murder of George Floyd at the high school stadium.
In the video, Gallagher said that school officials were in genuine fear for their lives.
He also addressed the sexual assault allegation alongside Mayor Curtis Cornelius, who said that there was insufficient evidence to lead to formal charges and that the allegation was investigated thoroughly.
Gallagher promises three things following the incident:
- The creation of an independent committee to review Little Elm ISD's sexual harassment reporting and investigation process.
- An after-action review of the Nov. 19 incident will be performed by the Little Elm ISD Safety and Security Committee.
- An independent investigation into the alleged sexual harassment incident that led to the student protest will happen.
Four students were arrested and charged for assaulting an officer during the chaos, and some of their parents sounded off at the meeting.
One woman of a teenage girl facing charges said, "I am appalled and disgusted regarding this entire situation. I didn't have a good Thanksgiving, and you haven't reached out to see how the children have been doing--not once."
The mother of the teen tased, Jolanda Martin, also spoke about when she found out about her boy being on the other end of the non-lethal police force.
"My heart stopped," Martin said. "All I could think about was, 'not at school.' "
An online petition, created by a Little Elm High School sophomore, says the Nov. 19 demonstration was in response to at least 10 sexual assault or sexual harassment allegations that were ignored by school authorities.
A spokesperson for the Little Elm Police Department told WFAA on Nov. 19 that the actions of the officers will be reviewed but said none are on leave while that process plays out.
WFAA reached out to see if that was still the case Tuesday but didn't hear back from the spokesperson before this article was published.