Amid claims that years of allegations were ‘swept under the rug,’ Evergreen students protest
About 30 Evergreen School District students and parents protested outside the district administration offices Wednesday. The event had been planned for about a week, ever since a teacher had been convicted of sexual abuse. The charges and conviction did not include any allegations of sexual harassment of Evergreen students, which angered the students and caused them to plan this protest.
The protest comes on the heels of other student protests that have reportedly taken place in the district in recent days, including a large number of students who walked out of classrooms and schools all over the district Tuesday afternoon.
“I just hate that they ignored us for so long, for no reason,” one student protestor shared with Clark County Today.
Tuesday evening at an Evergreen School Board meeting. The board quickly went into “executive session,” not viewable by the public, where they were going to “review the performance of an employee.” When they returned to the public meeting, they placed Superintendent Mike Merlino on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.
There is no indication, at this time, the decision to place Merlino on administrative leave is connected to the student protests or claims.
Many students talked about the case of a recently convicted teacher, William Robert Marsh. According to Evergreen School District, Marsh was hired in August 2007 as a Language Arts/Social Studies teacher. He worked at Covington Middle School from August 2007 until June 2019. He worked at Pacific Middle School from August until December 2019, Beginning in January 2020, he was on medical leave, and then resigned from Evergreen Public Schools in December 2020.
Marsh was recently convicted and sentenced to one year in jail for first-degree child molestation. The charges and conviction had nothing to do with allegations he had harassed or inappropriately touched any of his students.
There was discussion among the protestors of at least one other teacher in the district. Overall, the students believed there was a long history of the school district ignoring their reports and concerns about many teachers, substitute teachers, and staff in the Evergreen district regarding sexual abuse and inappropriate touching.
An Instagram page youfailedtoprotectus was created and is allegedly run by students. It contains postings showing news reports and other information dating back to 2018. The students said they had planned Wednesday’s protest outside school district headquarters a week ago.
The day prior, there apparently was a “district wide” walkout of schools, following the 5th period lunch break.
A district communications specialist told Clark County Today that “as far as school protests, students are allowed to have peaceful protests following certain criteria to ensure the school day is not interrupted. Here is what we have shared with students: Students are allowed to protest, but they must be held in designated places where they won’t pose any hazard to people or property and must not disrupt classes or activities (policy 3223). School staff monitored the protests for adherence to the policy as well as to ensure student safety at the half-dozen events that were held throughout the district (as well as other schools in other districts this week), but did not encourage or discourage the gatherings.”
“They sweep it under the rug,” said one student of the issue. A fellow protestor added “they’re more concerned about their reputation than us.”
There were roughly 30 students and parents in the crowd of protestors. The school district had three staff members stationed at the protest — its safety and security director, a communications manager and its senior director of secondary education, who had reached out and met with the student organizer of the event the day before to make sure the students would be safe while protesting along a very busy arterial.
The students mentioned a “list of Evergreen.” Apparently, Evergreen High School students recently compiled a list of students accused of sexual assault. According to the protestors, the school did not punish the students who were accused of committing the assaults, but they did suspend the students who distributed the list.
Those students were suspended last week and may not be back in the classroom until after the Christmas break, according to the protestors. That triggered protests on Monday, Tuesday, and became part of the planned Wednesday protest rally.
They also indicated the teachers union was protecting the accused teachers. One teacher was “very involved in the teachers union, so they didn’t do anything,” one mom said.
According to the mom, one family moved out of the area because the district had failed to intervene and discipline a teacher. They said the accused teacher had been teaching for almost 20 years, and had saved pictures of a student on their personal cell phone.
“There’s a lot of great teachers that work for the Evergreen School District,” the mom said. But she has a younger child and is concerned about whether or not to enroll that child in the district schools. She and her husband are considering all the alternatives, including home schooling, if things don’t get better.
Apparently the teacher recently convicted of child molestation had at times, been a “favorite” among some of the students. Before the allegations came out, the mom shared this teacher had been a favorite of her daughter.
“How do you trust teachers after that? How do you trust that they’re going to have a positive relationship with your student and do their job?
“I talked to the detective that actually was in charge of this case. He basically said, it’s not against the law for students to be touched by their teachers. It’s not against the law for them to move into their personal space. It’s not against the law for them to touch their legs, their backs, they’re not against the law. It’s not criminal. So I mean, that needs to be against the law.”
The parents of one student mentioned the suspension of Superintendent Merlino. “There’s allegations going around that she (Merlino’s replacement) isn’t any better. But like I said, how can you trust anyone that’s not speaking up or doing more? You know, I don’t trust anyone. Actions speak louder than words!”
The incident with their daughter happened in the 2018-19 school year at a middle school. “Now that he’s been a convicted child molester, we feel pretty different. We feel like why they failed us. They failed to protect our kids.”