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Middleton students walkout amid controversy

Posted: 3:28 PM, May 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-10 18:27:22-04

MIDDLETON — 6 On Your Side received an update with a statement from the Middleton School Board on May 10.

"We were like, we're just going to leave because if he's not here, why come," said Middleton High School student Marcos Mauleon-Villasenor.

Students are walking out of class to make a statement.

"We all love Mr. Merrill so much, and we've never had a more amazing principal," said student Hannah Tullis.

Following a heated school Board Meeting last night, Middleton High School students are protesting the Board's decision not to renew the contract for their beloved Principal, Benjamin Merrill, as 6 On Your Side's McKenna King originally reported.

"We made a few signs, but one of them got confiscated by a teacher, but this one says 'we need Merrill, save him,' and this one says 'save Merrill,'" said Marcos.

Dozens lined up around the school and then took off in their cars.

"If we went back to class, it's like saying we gave up," said Marcos.

Students say their Principal is the reason they enjoy going to school and they want the Board to reconsider the decision.

"You can just tell he cares for us so much. Like when we did the walkout, his number one thing he was worried about was we wore our seat-belts when we left the school," said student Kylie Parker.

One Board Member, Marianne Blackwell, disagrees with the majority position to not renew his contract. Students that attended the meeting were noticeably irked that her voice was stifled.

"When they didn't let her speak, everyone got a little irritated because that's so unfair. She's part of the Board just as much as they are and has a vote just as much as they do," said Parker.

Students say their focus now and reason for the walkout is to bring awareness to the petition, which many of them can't sign since they're underage. The circulating petition attempts to recall 3 of the 4 board members.

"I think it might bring Middleton down, honestly. People might leave the high school because they don't support this at all--it makes parents mad and students," said Parker.

Statement from Middleton School Board:
"The Middleton School Board Trustees held two executive sessions over the past few weeks. The Board has been working to understand what is the best course forward, given the events of the last few months. The Board was advised by its legal counsel to not directly investigate Dr. Ben Merrill’s accusations. Legal counsel took the lead as the Board would potentially have to take actions with the results. The reference to that advice can be found on the Middleton School District website. Additionally, the website contains the Board’s statement issued on April 25 and includes three conclusions from the investigation.

Given Dr. Merrill’s popularity, the Board chose to move slowly in trying to decide the best path forward for the school district.
The Board was planning on meeting with Dr. Merrill but in the end, Board Chairperson Tim Winkle was reminded about the Board’s responsibility to not investigate but to digest the results of the investigation and either accept or reject Superintendent Dr. Middleton’s recommendations on the personnel report. That vote was 3-1 Monday night after executive session. Given the limited information the Board can release on any personnel issue, the reaction from the community was expected.

The level of rancor, however, was beyond expectation and a trustee needed a police escort to her car. The Board can only ask the patrons of the Middleton School District to move forward in the most positive manner that will best benefit the students of the Middleton School District."