Public not being informed of school district incidents
By 12/18/2003 00:00:00
Parents creating citizen group to demand accountability
The Ellis County Press
ELLIS COUNTY - With situations and events within local school districts now seeping out into the public, it has many taxpayers and parents alike angry - and demanding more accountability.
Last week's drug search of 12 students at Waxahachie Junior High School was the third so far this school year, but parents 'had no clue' they took place, according to Linda Gallegos, one parent who is now planning to sue the district because of it.
Her case is just one of a string of incidents to plague Ellis County districts, ones in which parents - and even some teachers - were not notified.
This has Gallegos and other area parents demanding more accountability, and has even spawned the creation of a parent/citizen group.
Below is a listing of a few unreported or underreported incidents to have been made public within the past week:
After a string of suicides, the Ennis Independent School District held town hall meetings to concede that there has been for numerous years, gang and drug-related activity within schools.
Though many parents and taxpayers had known through rumors and word-of-mouth, it was the first time the district went full-scale in publicizing it.
At the district's only elementary school, parents complained about filthy conditions, including puddles of urine and fecal matter scattered around the gym floor.
Their repeated attempts to warn the school board were met with roadblocks, until finally, members of the school board witnessed the situation themselves.
One trustee reportedly told school administrators, 'someone needs to clean this up now.'
Midlothian's boys soccer team dominated their district the past four years, but it was overshadowed by the revelation last week that the head coach was let go after failing a drug test, reportedly finding traces of marijuana.
The incident occurred late last year, according to teachers at Midlothian High School, who jokingly talked openly about the situation.
Additionally, a Spanish teacher at MHS was forced to resign last year after administrators discovered an uncensored Jerry Springer video was shown to students.
A special education diagnostician was issued a warrant for possession of child pornography in November, but parents of children the suspected employee taught were not notified until recently.
Superintendent Kay Wag-goner said she made personal phone calls to the parents, and had only contacted the parents of the special education students the employee taught. The information about Bruce Largent's employment wasn't even made known until deep into a story in another newspaper last week.
When last week's drug search of 12 Waxahachie Jr. High students came to light, school officials had told only one parent, Linda Gallegos, who is now suing the district because no drugs were found on any student.
She's citing an unconstitutional search and seizure as the basis for her suit.
It had been, according to WISD officials, the third search this school year so far.
In a separate series of incidents, the district's financial situation wasn't made fully known until two former maintenance workers came forward with 1,100 pages of documents two months ago, resulting in investigations and a request for a state comptroller's forensic audit. Those two employees have since been arrested on tampering with government record charges, and followed the resignation of Finance Director Dan Davis.
And in another unrelated incident, a local newspaper, as well as the head football coach, failed to mention the car wreck and arrest of Lane Rust hours before WHS' prom. Rust, a standout running back for the Indians and son of prominent real estate developer Joe Rust, was arrested and booked in the Ellis County jail on vehicular assault.
These latest revelations, some say, are proof that more accountability is needed from both appointed and elected leaders.
The parent/citizen group, as well as Internet activism in some towns, is one start, Gallegos said.
'These [school districts] will get the message if 1,000 parents pulled their kids out of school. I guess that's the only way to make them [accountable].'