Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus, Texas Legislative Black Caucus and IDRA Call on the Legislature to Protect Students from Identity-based Bullying and Harassment

(AUSTIN • MARCH 9, 2023) Approximately one in four students in this country experience bullying related to their race, national origin, religion, disability, or gender or sexual orientation. Today, Sen. José Menéndez, Chairman of the Senate Hispanic Caucus, and Rep. Ron Reynolds, Chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, filed Senate Bill 2185 and House Bill 4625 to strengthen Texas laws prohibiting and preventing identity-based bullying and harassment in schools. 

 “We stand proudly alongside the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and IDRA in advocating for our students,” said Sen. Menéndez. “When children are being bullied, especially because of their race, national origin, religion, disability, or gender or sexual orientation, we must do all possible to protect them. We send our children to schools to prepare themselves for a better future. This bill is building on existing tools to allow school districts to coordinate responses and support for all students involved in a bullying-related incident. We hope the Legislature will join us in ensuring all students can have a safe place to study and prepare for their futures.” 

 “With incidents of bullying, harassment and hate crimes on the rise in Texas, it is time to provide our schools and educators with the necessary tools needed to keep our students and schools safe. Our schools need to be equipped with clear guidelines on how to address, document and investigate identity-based bullying reports. I am honored to be working with IDRA and sponsoring this critical legislation to help address the discrimination bullying crisis in Texas,” said Rep. Reynolds. 

“All students deserve to feel safe and welcome in school,” said Paige Duggins-Clay, J.D., IDRA chief legal analyst. “Unfortunately, students across the state are enduring horrific verbal, physical and online bullying on the basis of their identity. School efforts to prevent and respond to bullying must account for the specific ways that bullying targets students on the basis of their identities and the magnified harm that students and a school community experience when the bullying behavior is motivated by bias or discrimination.”

Students across the state have been increasingly reporting alarming examples of identity-based bullying in schools—fueled in part by misinformation spread as a result of recent efforts to attack and undermine diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in education.

For example, Black students in Lubbock, Texas, are called the “N-word” on a near-daily basis, frequently referred to as “porch monkeys,” forced to listen to other students making “monkey sounds” at them in class and told to “go pick cotton.” Students in one middle school were subjected to the sounds of cracking whips as they walked through the halls. Another Black student, out of breath while working out during football practice, was taunted by other students jeering, “He can’t breathe like George Floyd.”

In Mission, Texas students sent a 13-year-old Black girl racist comments and photos, including photoshopping her face onto Emmett Till’s body after being lynched by the KKK. The student was too scared to sleep in her own bed until the posts were taken down.

In Plano, Texas, students called a 13-year-old Black boy racial slurs and beat him with a belt in the boy’s locker room. The student was so miserable, he quit the football team. Later, at a sleepover where the bullies were present, students shot him with a BB gun, slapped him, and made him drink their urine.

These are just a handful of examples demonstrating the need for change. According to a recent report by the Charles Butt Foundation, Texas parents identified bullying as the greatest risk to safety, belonging and inclusion in Texas schools. Parents of color are particularly concerned with the risk of racial bullying and discrimination in their schools: 69% of Black parents and 59% of Latino parents reported feeling that students face a moderate or large risk of discrimination based on their race or ethnicity.

Senate Hispanic Caucus contact: Pearl Cruz, executive director, 512-463-0126 (pearl.cruz@senate.texas.gov).

Texas Legislative Black Caucus contact: Miriam Laeky, executive director, 469-288-5676 (mlaeky@txlbc.org).

IDRA media contact: Thomas Marshall III, IDRA policy communications strategist (thomas.marshall@idra.org).