Little Elm ISD to host listening session, investigate after chaotic protest

Students during a planned protest attempted to break into a Denton County high school's administrator's office looking for specific people right before chaos broke out between students and police.

That's according to Little Elm's mayor and the school's superintendent, who sent out a joint statement on Monday. 

They say three officers were assaulted, including one who was spit on. They also defended the officers' use of pepper spray and tasers.

Little Elm ISD is promising to address concerns that led to a chaotic protest. 

Police arrested four students on Friday at Little Elm High School. Cell phone video showed police tasering one student and using what appears to be pepper spray. That video showed the student running towards the officer, who then used the taser.

Parents received a letter Sunday evening from Superintendent Daniel Gallagher where he promised three things: create an independent committee to review the district’s sexual harassment reporting/investigations, a review of Friday’s incident by Little Elm ISD and an independent investigation into the alleged sexual harassment that triggered the protest.

Little Elm Mayor Curtis Cornelious and Gallagher released a joint video statement on Monday addressing the chaos that broke out on Friday.

Students told FOX 4 it was peaceful until police arrived. But Gallagher says school resource officers determined it was not.

"A large group of students attempted to break into an administrator’s office in pursuit of targeted individuals who were in genuine fear for their safety," he said.

Cornelious laid out what led to four students being arrested.

"In the chaos, one student assaulted a male police officer. Another student assaulted a female police officer," he said.

The city says one of the officers was struck in the arm and wrist but didn’t know the nature of the other assault.

Police say one officer went to the hospital but didn’t elaborate on injuries.

"When a third student attempted to interfere with the arrest, the officer was forced to use pepper spray and then a taser when the student would not stop advancing toward the officer. A fourth student spit on an officer, which Texas law deems as an assault," Cornelious said.

Neither the city nor the district would say how many students were involved in the protest. It also couldn’t say if police used any de-escalation tactics before the arrests.

The mayor defended officers’ actions.

"Officers are trained to use these devices to keep everyone as safe as possible. Videos of these kinds of arrests often lack the context necessary to understand everything that’s happening in the moment," he said.

Angie Testa has a son who goes to the school but wasn’t involved in Friday’s chaos. She wonders if officers overreacted.

"You don’t want to see kids being treated that way," she said. "You also don’t want to see officers you know having to deal with that kind of aggression."

Grandmother Paula Dauro says administrators should have better prepared for the demonstration.

"Call the students in an assembly. Set ground rules and expectations," she said. "Let them know it’s okay to protest, but it has to be done in this manner."

Dauro is now worried that trust between these students and officers may be permanently damaged.

"It’s installed a belief in these kids that police are the enemy and they are all bad," she said.

A listening session will be held after the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 30, where parents and the community can voice concerns and ask questions. 

Assaulting a police officer is a felony in Texas. The city says it’s leaving it up to a judge to determine what’s appropriate for the arrested students.

The district says its safety and security committee will conduct an after-action review of Friday’s incident.

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