At a May 15 board meeting, Southlake residents implored the Carroll ISD board of trustees and Superintendent Lane Ledbetter to negotiate with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights about a pending civil rights investigation.

Members of ​​Cultural & Racial Equity for Every Dragon, a group of parents of Black Southlake students, and the Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition, a group of current and former CISD students, submitted an open letter to administrators on May 8 after the OCR found the district was in violation of students' civil rights, according to the letter.

The OCR told the groups on May 6 that it has initiated negotiations with CISD after yearslong investigations in four complaints filed by the groups in 2021. This comes on the heels of the district’s recent denouncement of federal Title IX changes.

The OCR “only initiates negotiations in complaints for which it found that the school district violated the complainant’s civil rights,” according to a Legal Defense Fund news release, an NAACP legal firm that represents the two groups.

The backstory

The complaints chronicled instances where students were subject to racial slurs, homophobic comments, and other verbal and physical harassment based on race, gender identity and sexual orientation without appropriate intervention from school officials and administrators, according to the letter.

“We urge CISD to negotiate in good faith and implement the significant policy changes needed to ensure all students are welcomed and supported at school,” CREED member Pamela Francis said.

The details

By May 15, the district had yet to respond to the OCR or comment on the situation, and members of CREED and SARC lined up during the public forum to urge the district into negotiations.

CREED member Angela Jones, a Southlake resident of 23 years and the mother of three former CISD students, recalled the racial slurs and verbal abuse her children were subject to while attending CISD schools. She read aloud a letter from her son, which stated “it's too late for me, and I will live with the scars, but [CISD] has the chance to make it right for the kids in Carroll schools.”

“CISD violated my son’s civil rights,” Jones said. “My agenda has always been about my son and students like my son.”

Jones was one of eight speakers, including Russell Maryland, a former Dallas Cowboys player and CREED member, all leveling criticisms toward the administration. Several speakers implored Ledbetter specifically to engage with the OCR. Ledbetter announced his retirement in late April.

More details

"I know there’s been a lot of chatter in the media, social media and around town about four Office of Civil Rights, OCR, complaints levied against this district,” board President Cameron Bryan said. “I would like to take a moment to share with the community the facts as we know them.”

The incidents in the four complaints occurred prior to Ledbetter’s official start date or were before he was able to get his new administration in place, Bryan said. These incidents also predated six of the seven trustees on the board.

Since the time of the OCR complaints, the district has taken several actions around reporting, preventing and disciplining students in regard to discrimination, harassment and bullying, including a rewrite of the Student Code of Conduct, Bryan said.

“On May 6, 2024, the district received the OCR’s proposed resolution related to the four complaints. This proposed resolution is simply that—a proposal—and does not contain any findings of fact or legal conclusions,” he said.

The school board, district administration and its legal counsel were the only entities that were sent this resolution of action items, Bryan said.

Going forward

The OCR did not provide the district their findings or conclusions, or the evidence driving their claims, Bryan said.

"The OCR told the district that they would not provide us their findings in writing but would entertain a conference call to answer any questions. District officials and board members plan on taking the department up on the offer of a conference call in the very near future," Bryan said. “We believe a reasonable person would understand that before we consider OCR’s recommended actions, we should be privy to what was concluded and why."