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Texas students stage mass walk-out to protest beloved principal’s demotion

The students accuse their superintendent of foul play.

Mar 1, 2020, 2:29 am*

Tech

 

Dell Cameron

Hundreds of Texas high school students tweeted photos of themselves on Tuesday as they defied a request to remain in class and took to the streets in protest.

The protest at Frisco High School was organized in response to the recent demotion of the school’s principal, Sylvia Palacios. Frisco Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Lyon paid a visit to the school on Tuesday where he met with the student body leaders in an attempt to stop the demonstration. Dr. Lyon later asked the student over the loudspeaker not to leave the building.

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According to one student, whose identity has been withheld by request and because he is a minor, the school valedictorian offered to cancel the protest if Palacios was reinstated, but Lyon refused.

“She always supports us,” the student said. “She always tells us she loves us and supports us at our different events. We also don’t want a bad precedent to be set. It’s really about the principle of what’s happening.”

Earlier this week, parents received a letter informing them that Palacios was being reassigned at the end of the year to an assistant principal position at the district’s alternative school. According to local affiliate CBS DFW, Lyon took responsibility for the decision.

Members of the school’s faculty and student body, however, are now questioning whether Palacios is being punished for not bending to the demands of a few influential parents. CBS DFW cited reports of several incidents “in which parents demanded that teachers be disciplined, and Principal Palacios refused”

“We learned more of the truth of why this was happening,” teacher Mary Autrey told CBS DFW, “because of her not letting a parent bully her into making the decision that they wanted for their one student.”

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At the end of the second period, the student body poured out of the school and marched to the Frisco ISD administration building while chanting the name of their principal, “we want answers,” and “you can’t do this.” Roads were closed down by the Frisco Police Department, whose officers appeared to be aiding the protest. Four girls took a selfie while smiling in the back police cruiser and tweeted, “Protested to save our principal and go to cool off in a cop car. Proud of my school.”

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Meanwhile, photographs taken by students and news helicopters flooded the hashtag #SaveSylvia on Twitter. A few of the students posted old photos of themselves with the principal. 

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According to the student who spoke with the Daily Dot, a few parents tried to get the directors or coaches of extracurricular activities fired when their children didn’t get spots on certain teams. Palacios refused. The student declined to say which parents and which activities may have been involved, only that the requests made of Palacios concerned more than one student. 

“One board member then went to the superintendent and threatened not to give him a good review if he didn’t reassign our principal,” the student said.

The Daily Dot was unable to independently confirm the student’s story. Emails and phone calls were placed on Tuesday to the Frisco ISD administration, which promised to “be in touch soon.”

A school-board meeting is reportedly scheduled to take place on June 22 to discuss Palacios’ demotion. An online petition to save her job had received over 2,200 signature by 4:30 p.m on Tuesday. 

Update 6:00pm CT, June 2: Speaking to press outside the Frisco ISD administration building, Superintendent Lyon responded to accusations that he was pressured into demoting Principal Palacios. “This was my decision,” he said. “And when you hear a rumor that a school board member, or members, pressured the superintendent, I know in my heart that that didn’t occur.” The students who joined the protest won’t be punished, but will receive an unexcused absence. 

Update 8:45pm CT, June 2: The Frisco ISD sent out email which contained the following statement attributed to Superintendent Lyon: 

I and other administrators stayed at the school to speak with small groups of students and faculty members. We apologized that the timing of the announcement of this decision has taken the focus off of the end of the school year and the celebration of the seniors. Although we could not share specifics about the decision to reassign their principal, we did provide information about the process in order to dispel some of the rumors. I explained that personnel decisions are my responsibility as Superintendent, and that all employees and leaders are involved in a thorough evaluation annually and over time. This process is complex and involves many components and many departments, including Human Resources and Curriculum and Instruction, among others. Each year many factors are considered as decisions are made about where employees can best serve the needs of students in the District. Those decisions are made by me. In this case, I determined that Mrs. Palacios has skills that are needed at our Student Opportunity Center and that a change was needed at Frisco High. This is not a punishment, but a reassignment. The rate of pay has not changed. These decisions are not about parent complaints or political pressure – the School Board has no authority regarding the assignment of staff members, nor do they influence these decisions.  

Photo by alamosbasement/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) 

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*First Published: Jun 2, 2015, 7:08 pm