GUSTINE, TX — In Gustine, population 457, what happens at the schoolhouse affects nearly everyone. And something happened Monday that is causing a big controversy in this small town.
"I felt uncomfortable, and I didn't want to do it," said 11-year-old Eliza Medina. "I felt like they violated my privacy."
She was one of about two dozen elementary students who were rounded up in the small town 90 miles southwest of Fort Worth.
Eliza's mother, Maria Medina, said boys were taken to one room, girls to another, and they were ordered "to pull down their pants to check them to see if they could find anything."
Eliza's mom explained that educators "have been finding poop on the gym floor." She can imagine the frustration, but said even for feces on the floor you don't partially strip search a group of students to find the culprit.
"I was furious... I mean, I was furious," Medina said. "If you can't do your job or you don't know what you're doing, you need to be fired. You shouldn't be here."
Eliza said she tried to protest.
"I said I didn't want to, but I was told I had to because all the kids had to," she said.
Gustine Independent School District Superintendent Ken Baugh acknowledged that making kids drop their drawers goes too far. "That's not appropriate, and we do not condone that. So you would take disciplinary action."
But Baugh said early into the investigation, his understanding is that the children were told to lower their pants just a little.
Eliza Medina insists it was more than that.
"Like... to where your butt is," is how she put it.
And her mother contends that even if it were just a little (which she doesn't think it was), having kids line up and expose their underwear for inspection is simply unacceptable.
"Wrong is wrong," Medina said.
The superintendent is hoping to have his investigation into this incident wrapped up by Wednesday, after he has heard from all parties involved.
He may yet get an earful on Thursday night, though. Some angry parents are already planning to show up at the school board meeting to demand that someone be held accountable.
"Maybe we can find a much better way to solve this," Superintendent Baugh said.