Sharyland Pioneer students confront school board over hazing incident

Dr. Belinda S. Gorena, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services & Community Relations, listened to comments during a workshop for district board members at Shary Elementary School on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

MISSION — Students and community members speaking at a special meeting of the Sharyland school board Wednesday confronted trustees about a hazing incident allegedly involving the Pioneer High School swim team.

One of the speakers who addressed the board was Sharyland Pioneer senior Nancey Ramones, 18, who says she’s close to the victim.

Speaking to The Monitor, Ramones, who joined a chorus of concern from other students and sources who’ve recently spoken to the newspaper under anonymity for fear of repercussions, described the hazing as sexual in nature.

Among the claims made are alleged ties between a campus administrator and a student-athlete alleged to have been involved in the hazing incident.

District officials have not responded to these concerns, as Superintendent Maria M. Vidaurri deferred to a statement that was released Tuesday, which did little more than acknowledge the incident.

Ramones told the board that the alleged victim was so impacted by the incident that he changed schools.

“I don’t feel that it’s fair that they’re gonna come back to the school and the kid — the victim — had to move schools because he couldn’t come back to somewhere where he was violated,” Ramones said when addressing the board. “The kids who did get ISS for witnessing were mostly underclassmen, and the only reason they were there witnessing everything, and the reason they didn’t leave the room, was because they were scared that that was gonna happen to them.”

Ramones told the board she believed the individuals allegedly involved in the incident weren’t sufficiently reprimanded for their actions.

“I think there has to be more of a punishment for the three assaulters,” she said.

Speaking after the meeting, Ramones said the incident is common knowledge on campus, claiming that Sharyland ISD staff discouraged students from discussing it.

“We got told in one of my classes today that we’re not allowed to talk about it because he’s a kid, but it’s like public now. We can talk about it. You’re choosing not to listen to us and not to listen to him, and you’re just completely blowing it away, like blowing it off,” she said.

Knowledge of the incident in question, which Mission police spokesman Art Flores says happened in Corpus Christi sometime in November, came after the holidays, according to Ramones.

“Parents only started finding out and administration only started finding out after Christmas break, and nothing was ever said,” she said. “It’s an elephant in the room. … Everyone knows about it, and nobody wants to talk about it.”

Ramones says she felt compelled to address the board because of her relationship with the alleged victim.

Franky Aranda, 17, senior at Sharyland Pioneer High School walks from the Sharyland ISD school board meeting after speaking at Shary Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

“… The fact that he’s a really good kid, and the fact that it’s been going on for four years now where seniors … think it’s a game in order to get into varsity,” she said.

These concerns come at a time when The Monitor published a story about the incident Tuesday, and amid rampant speculation on social media.

“Well the swimmers, again, have an initiation for the freshmen to get into varsity, and they’ve been doing that initiation since, like, our freshman year. So in order for freshmen to get into the varsity team, they have to go through something, and this was … too extreme,” she said.

Sharyland Pioneer senior Franky Aranda, 17, also spoke up Wednesday and addressed the board, claiming that students who witnessed the act only received three days in an alternative education program.

“Three days, in our opinion, is not just,” he said before expressing concern about the alleged victim. “… It was an illegal act. Three days does not justify an illegal act.”

Aranda told The Monitor that the punishment was light in comparison to consequences he faced for posting a Snapchat video of a replica of a gun, which he says another student brought to school. Specifically, Aranda says he was punished with four days in ISS and a seven-week suspension from track activities.

“… I think what they did is way more severe than what I did. So I think the consequences aren’t fair. They’re not just,” he said.

Other concerns Aranda shared are similar to comments sources with knowledge of the matter have made to The Monitor, including the existence of a video showing the hazing incident as well as the alleged involvement of a student-athlete related to a campus administrator.

One resident, Gilda Rodriguez, expressed hope that the board would listen to the students’ concerns.

“I hope tonight, hearing these people’s, these children’s voices — I know y’all personally — I don’t ever want to have this happen in our school district again,” Rodriguez, who described herself as a passionate supporter of the district, said. “I know y’all will take care of this.”

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Sharyland High School.

mwilson@themonitor.com