March protests Sharyland’s handling of assault allegations

Matt Wilson | mwilson@themonitor.com
Protesters gather before a march Saturday in Mission to protest the Sharyland school district’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

MISSION — Shouts interrupted the peaceful quacking of ducks in Mission’s Bannworth Park on Saturday afternoon as about 50 people protesting Sharyland ISD’s handling of recent allegations of abuse at the high schools marched from the park and south along Shary Road.

“Shame on Sharyland!” protesters wielding signs and a megaphone yelled as they passed Sharyland High, pausing for a moment to turn and shout at the school.

The march followed speeches from former students and parents describing specific instances of harassment and abuse at the district.

The district has faced criticism over its handling of a fall 2019 hazing incident, allegedly involving the Pioneer swim team, which is being investigated by Corpus Christi police.

Sources close to the matter speaking anonymously have characterized the hazing as sexual in nature while police called it “inappropriate.”

Dante Flores-Demarchi, one of the march’s organizers, says the protest was intended to change the culture of the district.

“We put together a list of demands with simple concrete accomplishments that can help change the culture of Sharyland ISD,” he said. “Simple things like workshops for kids on consent and sexual assault, teacher training, things that will hold the board accountable if they ever feel the need to want to sweep something under the rug.”

Flores-Demarchi says he thought the march was a success.

“I think it went pretty well,” he said. “It was a little windy, so the setup was a little shaky, but a lot of people came out and we were able to put together a good amount of people to show a little sliver of what’s happening inside of Sharyland to the community.

“We hope that momentum keeps on going. If we don’t really see a response, we’ll definitely keep on pushing until we do, until we get that acknowledgement.”

The march attracted a variety of individuals, including former students and parents.

Dora Garcia, an educator, said she felt the need to attend the march to support its organizers and their mission.

“The reason I’m here is to support them. We need more kids like this, they are the future,” Garcia said.

Garcia also said she felt compelled to take action after hearing the accounts of students saying they had suffered from abuse.

“I never heard that this was so bad,” she said. “As a mom, I cried when I heard testimonies of kids that suffered from this. No one wants to go through this.”

The community has a duty to take a stand against inappropriate behavior in schools, Garcia said.

“I think it’s time that someone does something to change that. This is bad, it creates terrible effects on those kids in the future,” she said. “As parents, we need to start helping to create change and awareness that this should be stopped.”