Outside the Lubbock-Cooper ISD board meeting

Outside the Lubbock-Cooper ISD board meeting: (L-R) Sarah Moore-Harris, community supporter; Devon Durham, complaint participant; Tracy Kemp, complaint participant; Paige Duggins-Clay, J.D., IDRA; Shardae McGaha, complaint participant; Mary Harris, community supporter; Phyllis Gant, Lubbock NAACP

(Lubbock • December 13, 2022) Yesterday, IDRA joined students, families, and the Lubbock NAACP to challenge racially discriminatory practices in two west Texas school districts through an administrative complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Attorneys from Ellwanger Law, ACLU of Texas, and Texas Civil Rights Project serve as legal counsel to the complainants. The complaints allege that Slaton ISD and Lubbock-Cooper ISD failed to protect Black students experiencing racial bullying and harassment in their schools and imposed inappropriate and harmful discipline against those students.

IDRA’s Chief Legal Analyst, Paige Duggins-Clay, J.D., led research, community support, and strategy in collaboration with co-complainants and legal counsel.

“All students deserve to feel safe and welcome in school,” Duggins-Clay said. “We are hopeful the Department of Education will facilitate a resolution that eliminates the districts’ discriminatory discipline practices and effectively addresses the racially hostile environment.”

The Slaton ISD complaint describes incidents of Black students being sentenced to the district’s disciplinary alternative educational program (DAEP) without evidence or in violation of state and federal law. Multiple Black students experienced a daily onslaught of racialized taunts, threats and jeers from other students.

“The families of these children repeatedly reported the racial harassment and bullying that was causing their children emotional distress to Slaton administrators,” the complaint states. “But the administrators failed to take prompt, effective action in response to these complaints, instead leaving Black children to defend and support themselves.”

The Lubbock-Cooper ISD complaint describes Black children being subjected to an environment of “constant and near-daily bullying on the basis of race.” Further detailed in an August 2022 letter submitted by Ellwanger Law, students were subjected to derogatory language and racial slurs as well as the “sounds of cracking whips as they walked through the halls of the middle school due to the white students playing such sounds on their phones each time they encountered a Black student.” The complaint adds, “The white students would also go beyond the sound of cracking whips by initiating the sounds of monkeys as the Black students walked by.”

Lubbock-Cooper ISD board meeting crowdYesterday, families from both school districts and dozens of supporters from the broader Lubbock community attended the Lubbock-Cooper ISD school board meeting as three Lubbock-Cooper families testified.

“We are going to keep fighting until you make changes,” Tracy Kemp told Lubbock-Cooper ISD board members.

The complaints list a number of demands for resolution, including revised district anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies; training of school and district staff on Title VI and appropriate school discipline practices; effective and age-appropriate prevention programs for students; systems for student and family input; alternatives to exclusionary discipline placement, such as restorative practices; an external evaluator to regularly assess the educational climate and effectiveness of policies; and annual reports posted online summarizing the reports of racial bullying and harassment.

“Mechanically imposing discipline against students engaging in racially discriminatory conduct or duly reciting platitudes that a school does not tolerate racial harassment is not sufficient action,” Duggins-Clay said.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, will evaluate the complaints to determine whether to open an investigation. The Department is already actively reviewing two complaints filed by Lubbock-Cooper ISD families in April 2022.

Even with the pending complaints, school and district leaders should not wait to ensure their students have safe and welcoming school environments to learn. The students and families in Slaton ISD and Lubbock-Cooper ISD deserve accountability and positive change. Their lives have been irrevocably altered because of their schools’ discriminatory practices.

“No child should be forced to endure a racist learning environment,” Duggins-Clay said.

See infographic list of resultions listed in the complaints for Lubbock-Cooper ISD and Slaton ISD

Media contact: Thomas Marshall III, M.Ed. (thomas.marshall@idra.org)

For more information about these complaints, contact Paige Duggins-Clay, J.D., at IDRA (paige.duggins-clay@idra.org)

If you are seeking legal representation in a discrimination matter, contact David Henderson at Ellwanger Law (dhenderson@equalrights.law)

Watch IDRA social media for updates: @IDRAedu (Twitter & Instagram); @IDRAed (Facebook)

Testimony Before the Lubbock-Cooper ISD School Board

Initial Media Coverage Highlights

Texas school district accused of inaction over racist bullying of Black students, Antonia Hylton, NBC Nightly News, December 15, 2022

Black Lubbock, Tx Area Students Describe Relentless, Racist Attacks from Classmates, Katy Ture Reports, MSNBC, December 15, 2022

Claims of racism in Lubbock-area schools make national news, by Wes Rumbelow, EverythingLubbock/KLBK-TV (CBS-Lubbock), December 15, 2022

‘This Is the Only Way’: Black Texas Student Slapped Bully Who Called Her the N-Word; She Faced Severe Discipline, Driving Her Into a Mental Institution, by Nyamekye Daniel, Atlanta Black Star, December 15, 2022

West Texas parents are suing their schools over racism as others demand action over antisemitic bullying, by Jayme Lozano, The Texas Tribune, December 14, 2022 (also ran in KERA, December 15, 2022)

Families demand action after civil rights complaints filed against Lubbock-Cooper ISD, Slaton ISD, by Jaxie Pidgeon, EverythingLubbock, December 13, 2022

Texas high school accused of ignoring ‘daily’ racist harassment of Black students in federal complaint, Josh Marcus, The Independent, December 13, 2022

Taunted for being Black, a student fought back, civil rights complaint says. The 30-second fight derailed her life, by Mike Hixenbaugh, NBC News, December 12, 2022

Federal civil rights complaint alleging racism filed against Lubbock-Cooper ISD, by Sarah Self-Walbrick, KTTZ (NPR), December 12, 2022

Families at Lubbock-Cooper ISD, Slaton ISD file complaints of civil rights violations, by Caitlyn Rooney, EverythingLubbock/KLBK-TV (CBS-Lubbock), December 12, 2022

NAACP, parents address school board, by Brittany Michaleson KCBD-TV (NBC Lubbock), December 12, 2022

See additional media coverage here