Cleburne HS students protest teachers' resignations

Students at Cleburne High School walked out of class two days this week to protest he resignations of three teachers, including the head football coach.

The coach says they all feel like it's a hostile work environment. One colleague has even filed a lawsuit.

It started with a protest on Wednesday and a pulled fire alarm. It continued a second day as dozens refused to report to their final class.

The head football coach says they're upset about leaving and is speaking out for the first time.

Students protested the resignation of head football coach, Jeff Merket, a coach of 30 years. He submitted his resignation earlier this month after years of what he calls a hostile work environment. But instead of accepting his resignation, the district put him on administrative leave. That same day, the fire alarm was pulled, forcing an evacuation that led to a student's arrest, who is now facing felony charges.

"We don't need kids getting arrested," Merket said. "We don't need kids getting suspended."

Students protested on Thursday again and refused to report to last period. The Cleburne High School principal met with some of those students to discuss their grievances.

"I'd like to commend the students at CHS for standing up for their beliefs," Merket said. "I don't condone any unruly protests."

Merket is one of three Cleburne High School teachers to submit their resignation recently. One of his colleagues has filed a discrimination lawsuit. He has retained an attorney.

Merket's stepson, Braden, will soon sign to play football at Austin College. But being on administrative leave, Merket isn't allowed to set foot on school property. Braden brought that up to the school board on Monday.

"I was very nervous, and it was just a very unwelcoming feeling," the coach admitted.

Merket is calling for an independent investigation into the administration's actions.

"I've seen the videos of the protests at school," he said. "And like I said, I appreciate them for standing up for what they believe in."

The district has said that students should feel encouraged to approach staff with concerns.

"There are numerous ways for students to voice their opinions," the district said in a statement. "But disrupting the learning environment is not one of them."

The district said Merket could submit a written request to go on school property, but he has not done so yet.