Southlake Texas Water Tower
Southlake Texas Water Tower (Tallmaple/Shutterstock)

Department of Education Launches Civil Rights Investigation Into Southlake Texas School System

Three years ago, a horrific video showing a group of white high school students chanting the N-word went viral. Following the incident, school officials in Southlake, Texas, promised to make sweeping changes to address their racism problem. 

Those changes apparently didn’t happen, however, because now federal investigators have launched a civil rights probe into the school system. The investigation aims to look into how the school addresses issues of race, gender and sexuality among its students.

Mike Hixenbaugh and Antonia Hylton of NBC News reported that “the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights enforcement arm is investigating allegations of discrimination at the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas.”

According to Hixenbaugh and Hylton, “the department’s Office for Civil Rights notified the suburban school district’s officials last week that it had opened three investigations into complaints about discrimination against students based on their race, gender and national origin. The agency declined to provide details on the allegations and doesn’t comment on pending investigations, a spokesman said.”

Karen Fitzgerald, a Carroll spokeswoman, confirmed the agency investigation on the school district on Wednesday, Nov. 17, and issued a statement saying that the district is “fully cooperating with this process.” 

“Our focus will always be what is best for our students as we prepare them for their next steps in their educational journey,” she said.

The Carroll school system, and the abhorrent behavior that appears to regularly occur within the school district, has been the subject of numerous national media reports this year. It’s part of a growing political debate between conservatives and progressives over what content should be included in school programs and how books and curricula relating to race, gender, sexuality and especially critical race theory should be addressed and dealt with in schools.

“The Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, is responsible for enforcing federal laws that protect students from discrimination,” Hixenbaugh and Hylton reported. “Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, a consulting firm that advises school districts on how to resolve civil rights complaints, said when the agency opens an investigation, it’s often the beginning of a process that can take months or years. If the investigation confirms violations of students’ rights, the agency can require a school district to make policy changes and submit to federal monitoring.”

“Opening a complaint means that OCR believes that there is a likely violation based on the complaint,” Sokolow told NBC News. “And then they’re going to do their due diligence to find out more information.”

Following the original offensive viral video that circulated online, the school district proposed mandatory diversity training for all students and teachers and a new system that would be put in place to report and track incidents of racist bullying and discrimination. However, once the plan became public, conservative parents in the district formed a political action committee to sue the school and stop the changes from going into effect, arguing that they would create a form of “reverse racism” against white children.

That battle brought national media attention to the school, including abundant reports from conservative stations that celebrated the defeat of the school’s DEI initiatives. However, the lawsuit also increased attention to the school and incited more discriminatory behavior brought about by those early wins against diversity and inclusion, all of which appear to have fueled the Department of Education’s new civil rights investigation.

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

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