By Jayme Lozano, The Texas Tribune
“Lubbock-Cooper ISD passed a resolution denouncing racist bullying in schools. Parents say it’s a publicity stunt.” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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LUBBOCK — Weeks after a federal civil rights complaint was filed against Lubbock-Cooper ISD for inaction on racist bullying, the district’s board of trustees passed a resolution condemning racism during a special meeting Thursday.
Tracy Kemp is a mother involved in the filing and was excited to see the bullying was finally being addressed — nearly nine months after she brought up her initial complaint to the district.
“I’m really disappointed that it took national media coverage, bad press and angry parents for this,” Kemp said on Thursday.
The complaint filed by parents against the district alleges their children have faced daily harassment and violent bullying from peers at Laura Bush Middle School in Lubbock. Black students were subjected to derogatory language and racial slurs both online and in person, as well as the sounds of cracking whips or monkey noises as the students walked down the halls, according to the filing.
The harassment eventually became violent. Kemp’s 15-year-old son was a target of assaults by his classmates. In response, she and other parents brought the evidence to school administrators and created a QR code for students to quickly report bullying.
Still, parents say school officials would not take action to end the bullying or punish the students doing it, despite their “zero tolerance” stance. The Black students involved in the fights were punished.
Zniyah Lewis was bullied while attending the middle school last year and is now a freshman at Lubbock-Cooper High School. At the crowded board meeting on Thursday, she asked the board what their definition of zero tolerance was, but her question was met with silence.
The board was then asked by Phyllis Gant, a member of the Lubbock NAACP, if they could answer her.
“We can, we do not have to,” answered Paul Ehlers, president of the board. “We’ll let the statement stand for itself.”
Milton Lee, the president of the Lubbock NAACP, emphasized to the board that they can still fix the problem.
“This is not such a big issue that it can’t be solved,” Lee said. “You already have the blueprint, which is the zero tolerance. All we have to do is get together and say ‘We’re going to follow this, no matter who it may be.’”
Vice President Daniel Castro read the multipage resolution, most of which was going over the district’s version of the events from the past year. This includes their stance that Superintendent Keith Bryant met with the families involved and that no additional racially motivated incidents have been reported to the district.
“Lies,” Kemp said in response to both.
Castro continued reading the resolution, which stated the board of trustees condemns all racially motivated behaviors, actions or speech. The resolution pledges to support all actions to end racism and discrimination among students.
“The Lubbock-Cooper Independent School Board of Trustees is committed to maintaining a safe, orderly learning environment for students of all races, cultures and ethnicities,” reads the resolution.
While the resolution passed, parents said after the meeting that it’s not enough and the district hasn’t tried to make meaningful changes.
“They haven’t spoken about anything coming to the table as far as trying to fix this issue,” said Shardae McGaha, Zniyah’s mother. “And we know for a fact that we’re not going to be able to fix this issue for our kids anytime soon. But we have other kids growing up that will be attending these schools so we just want to cut out the racism altogether.”
Kemp called it a publicity stunt.
“We want them to come in and save the day,” Kemp said. “I don’t know why it’s hard to sit down and talk to families.”
Zniyah was hopeful at the start of the meeting, but that mood diminished by the end of it. The 15-year-old says she doesn’t feel safe at school but knows she has to go back.
“It’s heartbreaking to know I have to go back and this will be repeated because that’s what happens,” Zniyah said.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/01/05/lubbock-school-district-racism-bullying/.
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