Students at a suburban Dallas high school are planning more demonstrations after four students were arrested last week at a protest against the school's response to allegations of sexual harassment.
Hundreds of students decided to walk out of their classes at Little Elm High School on Friday morning after a sophomore publicly accused a freshman of sexually harassing and abusing her. The sophomore’s friend posted on social media that she had reported the abuse to the school’s administration.
The friend alleged that the administration then suspended the sophomore for three days for falsely accusing the freshman, according to the post.
In a joint statement with Little Elm Mayor Curtis Cornelious, Little Elm Superintendent Daniel Gallagher said that the school’s investigation of the alleged abuse did not find sufficient evidence of a crime. He denied allegations that the student had received disciplinary action for reporting the sexual harassment.
Junior Kailey Heaton said students were frustrated by the school’s alleged inaction.
“I personally know people who have reported their assaults and have been ignored by the administration,” Heaton told the Associated Press. “And so I decided to share (the post containing the allegations). Basically, we were all kind of fed up with it.”
The walkout began around 10:20 a.m. Friday. But Heaton said the protest turned violent when police officers attempted to corral the students by linking arms. Heaton said the officers began attempting to push the teenagers back but students eventually broke through the line.
Videos widely shared on social media show officers forcibly holding a student on the ground while arresting him. Others show two officers pepper-spraying one student and then firing their Tasers at him.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the school said the original allegations that sparked the protest contained “inaccurate information regarding an incident that happened a month ago.”
“This morning, students at Little Elm HS had planned a student demonstration inside the campus that caused some students to behave in a way that caused a major disruption,” the statement, posted on Friday, said. “Four juvenile students were arrested for assaulting Little Elm Police officers.”
Cornelious said in a video statement on Facebook that officers were justified in their use of force against the students.
“Texas law gives police the right to take necessary steps in order to make an arrest,” He said. “Those steps include the use of tasers and pepper spray as safe and nonlethal measures of subduing someone resisting or acting aggressively.”
In response to the incident, the Little Elm Police Department posted the statement from the school district on its Facebook, along with the joint statement from Cornelious and the superintendent.
According to Heaton, students are now planning more demonstrations and intend to go to the Dec. 13 board meeting to express their grievances.
“I fully believe they still think we’re just a disruption,” she said. “They told parents that they sent police to calmly de-escalate the situation when they actually just made everything much much worse. I feel they’re downplaying the situation. The severity of it was much more than what they’re admitting.”
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