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MELISSA (CBS11) – The arrests of a popular band director and government teacher will inevitably be on the minds of people at Melissa High School Monday morning for the first day of school, but everywhere you look in Melissa you’ll find decorations with red ribbons to remind everyone to keep their heads up.
Hoping to draw on the power in numbers, dozens of Melissa moms stood together Sunday afternoon outside Harry McKillop Elementary School to pray and offer each other support.
“We’re just simply shocked. This has not happened in our wonderful little town, so we are simply shocked, and trying to deal with all of those emotions that go with that,” Melissa ISD mom Jennifer Pickett said.
The community had a difficult week after police arrested former Melissa High School band director Michael Eugene Reddell for sexual assault and having an improper relationship with a student. Just days later officers arrested the school’s former government teacher, Darrell Glenn Whitten for having an inappropriate relationship with the same teenage girl.
“I hate that this is happening. Both of these men have families, and they have kids, and that part of it is very emotional when we know the families,” Pickett said.
As the group of mothers made its way to each of the school district’s campuses offering prayers, concerns for children of all ages weighed heavily. Court documents describe the victim reaching out to Whitten saying she was depressed and suicidal after another teacher’s inappropriate behavior toward her. Whitten is charged with failure to report child abuse.
“For those students that are looking for help, that there are always trusted adults around our community that they can talk to,” Melissa ISD mom Stacey Piyakhun said.
Hours later a new prayer group gathered, this time led by dads with many determined to help the community heal as the school year begins.
“Just obviously some of the news and the different things that has happened here, I think all of the parents and really the whole community has rallied around that need,” Melissa ISD dad Ryan Ross said.
In addition to the red ribbons seen around town, many are asking everyone in the community to wear Melissa High School’s colors, red and black Monday as a sign of support.
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