The open discussion was a direct response to a recently posted video of Carroll ISD students chanting a racist slur. Southlake Mayor Laura Hill, CISD board President Sheri Mills and CISD board Vice President Michelle Moore were in attendance.
Parent after parent lined up to speak about sensitive topics, such as personal experiences with racism and discrimination, negative dealings with school district staff when trying to report such instances, advice for families moving forward and calls to action.
“The best thing I think you can do is stand up when you see something happening that’s wrong and be willing to put your name behind it,” Hill said.
Southlake City Council Member Shahid Shafi was also in attendance. In an impromptu speech he addressed the religious discrimination he faced from the Tarrant County Republican Party, of which he was appointed the vice chairman.
“This was not the first time, and this will not be the last time,” Shafi said. “But what we have to understand as a community is we need to stand together and with each other.”
Shafi said negative sentiments against him came from a small group of individuals, and he has received overwhelming support from his colleagues and other community members.
“As much as I wish that I didn’t have to deal with it, as much as I wish that our kids won’t have to deal with all this stuff that comes up, it is a reality and we have to keep working,” he said.
Ideas for CISD to help promote diversity and cultural sensitivity include hosting a student-centric multicultural event, being more inclusive in hiring teachers, training teachers to be more mindful of their words, expanding counseling services, engaging students more in these kinds of discussions, strengthening policy against teachers who are complicit in discrimination and appointing a committee to oversee and advise on diversity activities.
Mills said the school district is hiring more counselors to provide support, and responding to the issue of diversity, Moore said the district has drafted a cultural competence action plan, which will be considered for board approval at a later CISD school board meeting.
“We are creating the infrastructure to start [a diversity council] early 2019,” Moore said. “This is something we’re taking action on fairly quickly. I think there’s going to be an application process for community members to be part of it. There’s nominations from the school board, so we’re going to kick that off soon.”
While some suggestions were directly for the school district, some mothers also implored other parents to take responsibility in having these conversations as a family and making a stronger effort to make them more mindful of cultural insensitivity.
Trophy Club resident Amy Triggs said although she does not live in Southlake, she spends a lot of time in the community, and she attended the forum because her daughter was called the same racial slur as heard on the video and faced prevalent racist attitudes at a previous school.
“We just went through this,” Triggs said. “For me seeing my daughter torn apart like that, when I hear about things like this, I want to be present because I don’t want another child to go through what my kid goes through.”
The value of an event like this lies in the opportunity it gives the school district and neighboring communities to advocate for a safe learning environment for all students, Triggs said.
“We’re all great at being outraged,” Hill said. “It’s time to stop just being outraged and being part of the change.”