SOUTHLAKE, Texas — State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, is joining a divided fight in the wealthy suburb of Southlake that surrounds a diversity plan for Carroll ISD, which was kickstarted by a 2018 viral video of some high school students using the N-word.
The plan, however, was ultimately rebuffed by the school board last summer after parent pushback in a town with just 2% of Black people making up its population.
It has yet to be adopted and is now in limbo thanks to a successful parent lawsuit that ultimately led to a temporary restraining order.
However, the district and the parent have agreed to a mediation process that will ultimately resolve any issues.
West told WFAA on Thursday that his law firm and the Bledsoe Law Firm are now representing the interests of several families within Carroll ISD. He is strongly encouraging an outcome where the diversity plan is adopted.
He's also asking that the U.S. Department of Justice do the mediation.
"We're demanding a seat at the table," West said. "We know that there are issues in Southlake."
After the video surfaced, the district created a diversity council to develop a plan of attack to thwart discrimination.
The district also received dozens of testimonials from students and families of different ethnicities regarding discrimination they had experienced while living in Southlake — an affluent city nationally known for its schools.
The diversity council ultimately decided on what came to be known to many in town as the Cultural Competence Action Plan (CCAP for short). It was crafted over 18 months by 63 parents, students, and school staff members.
One of its more direct impacts would be auditing the district's current curriculum for inclusion purposes. The plan also recommended broadening and diversifying Carroll ISD's current curriculum.
But one of the most important parts of the plan would be hiring a director of diversity and inclusion.
That person would log and track hate speech or any incident of discrimination within Carroll ISD.
However, when the plan was sent to the board, it was merely accepted and not adopted. Weeks later, that receipt of acceptance was rescinded, and before any retooling to CCAP could happen, the lawsuit arrived.
The suit claimed the board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act connected to CCAP by holding “secret deliberations” on proposals through text messages.
As CCAP started a legal battle, interest groups were also formed to influence people to take sides.
A PAC called Southlake Families was formed to help fight the CCAP and has raised over $100,000, per state records.
The Southlake Anti-Racist Coalition was also formed and went viral after splicing together public comments made by parents outraged by the diversity plan.
Demi Lovato, who grew up in the Dallas area, shared that video on Instagram, and it now has more than 2 million views.
West and the Bledsoe Law Firm jointly sent a letter to Carroll ISD Thursday that read in part: "The false and divisive claims have been made that CCAP was created for and by liberal activists, and that CCAP will impose overreaching restrictions and sanctions that discriminate against the District's white students. These groups have applied intense pressure on the Board of Trustees (the "Board") to disown and reject CCAP and have gone so far as to initiate litigation to ensure that CCAP is never implemented. It is disappointing to see the Board capitulated to this illogical pressure."
In the letter, West informed the district that parents favor the CCAP if you tally who spoke for and against it during public comment the night it was presented:
"On August 3, 2020, CCAP was presented to the Board. During the Board meeting, there were over two-hours of public comments, including approximately 100 speakers. 60% of forum speakers favored the Board adopting CCAP, and 30% were against it. 10% spoke on other matters."
West said that if an amicable resolution can't be made, then he and the clients he's representing may resort to legal action.
"Make no mistake about it; we will avail ourselves of all our legal rights under the state and the federal government," West said.
"The responsibility of a school district in this country is to educate children and make certain that while they're in their care that they're taken care of...and that's just not happening in Southlake."
A spokesperson for Carroll ISD sent WFAA the following statement regarding West's letter:
Carroll ISD is in receipt of correspondence from West & Associates. While the lawsuit is not the focus of the letter, the concerns relate to pending legal action against the District. Because the parties plan to participate in a mediation soon to see if we can bridge the gap in the parties’ positions and resolve our differences, we decline to discuss the matter at this time.
However, at Carroll ISD, we believe that academic excellence depends not only on a diverse body of students, families, and staff but, of equal importance, affirming and engaging the perspectives and backgrounds within our Dragon community. Carroll ISD has to be able to discuss and address diversity issues and action plans, and the Temporary Restraining Order currently in place hinders this work. We are hopeful our efforts in mediation will allow us to have an open discussion about how to move forward. And, at the end of the day, the only way we move forward is together.
West will be holding a press conference Friday in Southlake with members of the diversity council and other community members at 10:30 AM at Frank Cornish Park.