Cy-Fair for Black Lives plans to hold a peaceful protest Saturday, June 27, from 5-8 p.m. at Katy Park, 24927 Morton Road, Katy. Organizers are still seeking donations of water and personal protective equipment for the event.
Originally posted June 16 at 12:53 p.m.
Ten days after graduating from Langham Creek High School, Sydney Deramus spoke to Cy-Fair ISD’s board of trustees at a June 11 meeting about her disappointment in the lack of conversation about racial justice in Cy-Fair.
“I am here today because I am sick and tired of my community remaining silent on the constant racial injustices happening in this country,” she said at the meeting. “I urge you all to listen to your black students’ pain. I urge you all to stand with the black community at this time—not just today but every day.”
Deramus continued to tell board members she and fellow graduate Hana Maung attended a peaceful protest organized by Katy ISD students in early June and that she would like to hold a similar event at the Berry Center. She told Community Impact Newspaper her efforts to coordinate an event at the district's venue were met with restrictions from officials, including a limited route for the march and limitations on speeches.
As protests for racial justice take place across the country in the aftermath of highly publicized instances of police brutality against black Americans, Deramus and Maung launched a Facebook page called Cy-Fair for Black Lives and online petition June 5 urging the Cy-Fair community to speak up against racial injustices.
Deramus said her vision for the peaceful protest includes a socially distanced march, a time for black individuals to share their experiences, and eight minutes and 45 seconds of silence in honor of George Floyd, the black man who died after former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
If Berry Center officials do not loosen restrictions for the event, Deramus said she would seek an alternate location for the protest she hopes to hold this weekend. As of 11 a.m. on June 16, more than 1,320 individuals had signed her petition, and more than $500 had been raised through GoFundMe for snacks, water and masks for the protest.
Deramus had attended CFISD since eighth grade and said as a black student, she did not see equal opportunity for her peers. She said she had supportive teachers throughout her time in the district, but she would like to see the administration invest more resources in students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and socioeconomic situations.
For instance, Deramus said in her Advanced Placement and dual-credit courses, her fellow classmates were disproportionately white.
“I just hated being the only black person or [being able to] count all the kids of color on one hand,” she said in a June 15 phone interview.
Black students in CFISD had an 89.8% graduation rate in 2018, compared to nearly 96% for their white peers, according to district data.
Superintendent Mark Henry announced at the same June 11 meeting that a new committee will evaluate the equity of academic opportunity, representation in hiring and student discipline measures. He shared his own thoughts on current events in a statement the prior week.
This committee, led by Chief of Employee and Student Services Deborah Stewart, will compile an equity audit and identify problems that needed to be addressed, Henry said.
“It’s not that these have not been board goals, and it’s not that we haven’t addressed them,” he said. “I just think it’s important that the community see that we’re serious about addressing these inequities in our organization.”
In 2018-19, black students made up 18.6% of the district but accounted for 38.7% of in-school and out-of-school suspensions, according to data from the Texas Education Agency. That same year, 66% of teachers were white despite only 24% of CFISD’s students being white.
Deramus said she supports the concept of the committee and hopes to see plenty of people of color represented in the group.
Board President Bob Covey tasked trustees Julie Hinaman, Gilbert Sarabia and John Ogletree with composing a statement declaring the district’s commitment to addressing racial inequities before school returns in August.
“I was raised basically in a small west Texas town, and back in those days African-Americans had their own schools; they didn’t come to school with us,” Covey said. “In my life I’ve seen that change ... [but] there’s still underlying situations that someone like me can overlook.”
Ogletree, the only black member of the board, said he would like to see the district’s police department mentioned in the statement, considering the ongoing national conversation regarding police brutality.
“I think since the George Floyd murder did spur this nationwide movement, we should in any statement [that] we abhor prejudice and hatred ... also say a word about our policing procedure—the way our police are expected to engage and interface with students or parents,” Ogletree said.