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Dexter students protest action against teacher

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About 40 Dexter High School students protested Tuesday morning outside the high school building on North Lincoln Avenue following what they described as disciplinary action against a teacher.

Some students were trying to encourage others nearby to join them, but said they had been told there could be harmful consequences, including suspension, for taking part in the action.

David Guajaca, junior class president, who participated in the demonstration in the presence of his mom, Annette Aguirre, said a teacher had been disciplined early Tuesday, supposedly for an interaction with a sophomore girl who allegedly had been caught using marijuana that morning.

“We are hoping we can bring him back,” said Guajaca. “We are doing this all week. If this doesn’t work, then we are going to the school board.”

A junior student described having a direct conversation with the teacher, who reportedly said that he had been told he was being disciplined for interacting with the student prior to a drug test. Another person at the protest said that they heard that he had been told he was wrongly interfering with parental rights.

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According to minutes from an October 2015 school board meeting, the teacher had been hired in fall 2015. An online staff directory for the teacher had provided his email and a photo on Tuesday afternoon, but the listing had been removed shortly afterward. Attempts to contact the teacher through Facebook and an email address did not result in a response by press time.

Dexter Police Chief Joe Portillo said early Tuesday afternoon that no arrests or criminal charges have been made as a result of what occurred at the school.

Guajaca said that students decided to walk out of classes to protest about 8:15 a.m. and were informed by administrators and teachers that they would fail their class assignments and could be removed from school teams, clubs and organizations and might be unable to graduate if they continued to protest.

Students also said that they were told to leave school property or they would be charged with trespassing, but were allowed to remain when police said they had a right to demonstrate at the school.

Guajaca said he had been told he faces possible removal as a class officer due to his participation. But, he said, he considered the teacher, whom he has known for three years, worth the action.

“That teacher has kept so many kids from dropping out,” he said.

Other students said the teacher had been a positive influence in their lives and “had changed the school.”

“He’s a good man. …. He came out and took time out of his life and talked with me,” said one student. “I changed. I went from, like, trying to hang out with people who drink and party all the time to, like, hanging out with my brothers at home, taking care of our work.”

Aguirre, who also had two other children involved in the protest, said she was proud of the students’ decision.

“I think what they are doing is remarkable,” she said. “They are standing up for a teacher who believes in them. And now a teacher needs to see they believe in him.”

She also said she does not think that the students should be punished for participating in the protest.

“They are threatening to suspend all these children,” she said, “and I don’t think that is right.”

Superintendent of Dexter Consolidated Schools Lesa Dodd was contacted by phone and through her staff at her office and asked questions by email, but she did not respond by press time.

School Board President Orlando Chavez also could not be reached for comment.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.