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Civil rights groups urge DOJ probe in Texas


Black students continually called ‘n-word’

Four civil rights groups  have requested the Department of Justice (DOJ) to send federal agents to a Texas school district accused of rampant discrimination and negligence toward Black students and students with disabilities.

The federal complaint filed by Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, National Center for Youth Law, and Texas Civil Rights Project alleges that the Bonham Independent School District (BISD) fostered a hostile environment toward Black students and students with disabilities that subjected them to ongoing disciplinary measures, including removing them from their traditional school environment and placing them in a disciplinary alternative program for students who commit specific disciplinary or criminal offenses.

According to a joint statement, the northern Texas district was deliberately indifferent toward the racial harassment Black students were subjected to and constantly refused students with disabilities access to accommodations necessary for their education.

The complaint was filed on behalf of two students identified as “C.J.” and “B.E.” whose experiences at Bonham High School were thoroughly documented in the filing.

The student referred to as “C.J.” in the complaint is a Black student with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and dyslexia who qualified for special education. After he enrolled at Bonham High School, he was mostly referred to the disciplinary program the complaint described as a “one-size-fits-all program” that never provided him with the proper educational modifications to accommodate his disabilities.

A judge ordered CJ to drop out of BISD and enroll in a GED program, despite a probation order from an unrelated criminal charge that ordered him to obtain his high school diploma and follow BISD rules. His grandmother told a judge about that probation order, but the judge reportedly  dismissed them and told them to lawyer up, according to the complaint.

C.J. followed the judge’s order and dropped out of BISD. Two days later, he was arrested for violating his probation order.

As for the unchecked racial harassment within the district, the complaint notes several incidents that revealed how BISD ignored the racism toward several Black students.

The complainant, B.E. — a 14-year-old biracial student at Bonham High School since 2022 — attested that White students called him and other Black students the n-word, “cotton picker,” and “Black monkey” numerous times. There were also several instances in which White administrators and teachers heard students using these slurs but simply ignored them.

B.E. was also reportedly subjected to harassment by the school resource officer (SRO) who arrested him twice within two weeks in December 2023. About 10 days later, the same SRO handcuffed and arrested B.E. in front of his peers for horseplaying on the bus with a White friend. B.E. was charged with felony injury to a minor and remains today in a court-ordered disciplinary program. His White friend spent only four weeks in the same program before returning to school.

“A bunch of people were saying the N-word. I got tired of it, to the point where everyone kept saying it and I said stop, and they just keep doing it,” he explained.

His mother also shared how she attempted to talk to her son about the discrimination from his White peers.

“No matter what they call you, no matter what they say to you, no matter all the hurtful things whether it is an adult or child, anybody, you just have to take it, I’m sorry, son,” she said.

The complaint cites several civil rights violations based on how BISD treated C.J. and B.E. and requests the DOJ investigate the district and overhaul its policies and practices. It also seeks compensatory damages for C.J. and B.E. and for the district to return B.E. to his regular education program.