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Video of teens arrested at protest 'lacked necessary context,' Little Elm mayor, schools say

Fort Worth Star-Telegram logoFort Worth Star-Telegram 11/23/2021 Jessika Harkay, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Nov. 23—In a joint video message in response to public outcry regarding what began as a high school sexual assault protest and ended in students getting arrested, tased and pepper-sprayed, Little Elm Mayor Curtis Cornelious and Little Elm ISD Superintendent Daniel Gallagher said circulating video "lack[ed] context necessary to understand everything that's happening in the moment."

"This demonstration on Friday was not peaceful and caused a major disruption," Gallagher said in the social media video, which has received over 6,400 views as of Tuesday morning. "In one incident, not currently shown on social media, 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."

Four students were arrested during the demonstration at Little Elm High School. Cornelious said that two students assaulted police officers and a third tried to interfere with an arrest, which caused the teen to be pepper-sprayed and later tased "when the student would not stop advancing toward the officer." A fourth student reportedly spit on an officer.

"Whenever an officer arrests someone who's acting aggressively or resisting, it's hard to watch, but Texas law gives police the right to take steps necessary to make an arrest," Cornelious said. "Those steps include the use of tasers and pepper spray, as safe, non-lethal methods of subduing someone who has been aggressive or refusing to respond to requests."

The school district plans to hold a listening session at the end of the month regarding its policies for reporting and investigating sexual harassment. In the video message Monday, Gallagher said the district also will conduct a review of the Friday protest and a follow-up investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct incident that triggered the protest.

The school district will also create an independent committee to review its sexual harassment reporting and investigation process, Gallagher added.


Video: Little Elm parents lay into district officials at listening session after student protest led to chaos (WFAA-TV Dallas-Ft. Worth)

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"What's important for our community and our students to understand is there are appropriate ways to be heard, but violent acts toward people, property and physical aggression is something we cannot allow in our schools," Gallagher said.

"I want to end by making one point clear. There is injustice in this world," Cornelious followed. "We encourage people to use their voice and speak out peacefully against wrongdoing. Little Elm is a strong, diverse and proud community. We have shared values and shared interests. We can come together and address our concerns as a community and as people who care for each other."

In an interview with KXAS-TV, the student at the center of the sexual assault incident, who goes by Jaelyn, said she was groped on a school bus back in October. The teen reported the alleged assault, but was told her statements didn't add up.

Cornelious and Gallagher said Little Elm police investigated the allegations but determined there wasn't enough evidence to prove a crime occurred.

"It was very hurtful. I felt, like, I lost. I had nothing else to do," Jaelyn told NBC DFW, adding that she was later put on three days of in-school suspension after violating a "stay away order" which was implemented to keep her and the student she accused of assault away from one another.

"I just want, not only my voice, but everyone else's voice to be heard as well," she told the TV station.

The school district's listening session will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 30 in the auditorium at Little Elm High School.

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