Parents at Little Elm School say sexual assault reports were treated badly

Calls for resignation and responsibility and allegations of poorly handled sexual assault reports were echoed among parents, students and community members at Little Elm ISD on Tuesday evening.

In the auditorium of Little Elm High School, where a planned protest got out of hand on November 19, the school district hosted a listening session for parents and students to voice their concerns to a group of four administrators, including Superintendent Daniel Gallagher.

Several community members, out of around 200 participants, spoke about allegations of sexual assault involving their children which they said were fired or mismanaged in the district.

John Alvarez said his child was repeatedly sexually assaulted by another student on a school bus in October. The district’s handling of her case was the main catalyst for the protest, according to an online petition.

Alvarez said he was not made aware of an investigation until two days later, when he called the school. Alvarez also said her daughter received a three-day suspension from school for allegedly violating an order to stay away from the student she accused of assaulting.

Alvarez asked why there were consequences for his daughter but not for the person who he said assaulted her.

School and city officials said they investigated the report but could not find enough evidence to press charges.

“We send our kids to school for you to educate, protect and keep them safe,” Alvarez said. “How am I supposed to feel as a parent knowing that situations can eventually be dismissed, like that of my daughter and my classmates? ”

Catherine Tate opened up about her daughter’s reported sexual assault at Little Elm ISD middle school. She said administrators asked her daughter to retract and refused to suspend the person she said assaulted her.

The parent said she filed a complaint against the suspect and won the case. His daughter, who also spoke, said the other person was punished by the law but not by the school.

A public records request by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to the school district on Nov. 24 asking for the number of incidents of sexual misconduct reported in the past five years was not met or responded to Tuesday.

“Little Elm knows of only one of those reports this year – the one that sparked the current discussion,” city officials wrote on a website, called Little Elm Facts, set up to answer questions surrounding the protest. “Anyone with first-hand knowledge of an incident involving sexual assault on school property or during the school day should immediately report to Little Elm Police. The police take appropriate action in each case for which (they receive) a report. “

Parents also demanded accountability and resignations from the district administration. Parents said the school district was aware of the planned protest and asked why the city police department was called and used pepper spray and tasers on minors.

On the Little Elm Facts website, city officials wrote that “the police, in their day-to-day role as school resources officer, were already in school when the walkout began. When it became clear that the protest was not going to be peaceful, other officers arrived to make sure the school resource officers were not overwhelmed. “

At least one student has been tased by police and several have been hit with pepper spray, according to the Star-Telegram’s initial report. Four students were arrested during the protest.

Officials said two students assaulted police and a third attempted to interfere with an arrest, which resulted in the teen being pepper sprayed and later tased “when the student did not stop to advance towards the officer “. A fourth student reportedly spat on an officer.

During the listening session, parents and students said the school district had failed to take responsibility. A parent criticized Gallagher for not asking the high school principal to attend the session.

A mother, Arinthea Haynes, said she reached out to administrators over bullying issues with her children, but they did not address her concerns.

Haynes said she was removing her children from Little Elm ISD after moving to four different schools in the district. She said she put her house on the market the day before the protest, and the district’s response since then has only reinforced her decision to move.

Grandmother Paula Dauro said there was a lack of leadership and spoke out against the use of force by the Little Elm Police Department.

Lloyd Reeves also spoke out against the use of force and said he was organizing a class action lawsuit against the district and encouraged other parents to contact him.

Days after the protest, Gallagher and Mayor Curtis Cornelious posted a video saying the information shared about the allegations lacked context. The “Little Elm Facts” website was created to “respond to and clarify the distortions, misinformation and lies” surrounding the incident.

According to the Little Elm Facts website, Little Elm Police Chief Rodney Harrison will have officers’ actions reviewed by an outside use of force expert.

The school district will also create an independent committee to review its process for reporting and investigating sexual harassment, which it has invited parents to apply to join.

Around the same time the officials’ video statement was released, Little Elm High School sophomore Teagan Langley created a petition titled “Keep LEISD Students Safe” ask the school district to take action.

As of Tuesday evening, the petition had more than 20,000 signatures.

Langley said on Tuesday she had collected the stories of 10 students who had reported sexual assault and they had all been fired.

“My goal for my petition was to keep my word,” she told the panel. “Immediately, with the video that you all posted the very day I posted my petition, you had already failed. You said you would protect us … I don’t think any of us believe you.

This story was originally published December 1, 2021 9:38 a.m.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Related Stories

Megan Cardona is a late-breaking Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2020, where she worked at the campus newspaper, The Shorthorn, for two years. She is passionate about accurate and easy to understand reports.

Comments are closed.