Controversial Texas district suddenly faces 3 federal civil rights probes

Opponents of Carroll ISD's diversity plan just gained control of its school board
By: | November 18, 2021

Southlake, Texas school district Carroll ISD, which has stirred controversy over equity issues, now faces multiple civil rights investigations over complaints of racial and gender discrimination against students, NBC News reports.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights this week opened three probes into the suburban-Dallas district but, according to NBC News, has not provided more details. A Carroll ISD spokesman told NBC News that the district is cooperating with the process.

After elections earlier this month, opponents of Carroll ISD’s diversity initiative gained control of its school board by, in part, calling the plan an effort to bring critical race theory into the district’s classrooms, NBC News reported.

And in October, Carroll ISD’s curriculum director caused an uproar and drew charges of antisemitism when she told teachers to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust, according to NBC News and other outlets. That administrator claimed she was only ensuring district educators were in compliance with a new Texas law that requires teachers to address controversial issues from multiple perspectives, NBC News said.

Texas has seen several education-related controversies in recent months and throughout COVID, including a number of districts defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on school mask mandates. Last week, that ban was thrown out by a judge who ruled the order violates the rights of students with disabilities to access in-person education equally and prevents school leaders from complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act and portions of the American Rescue Plan.

“Texas has an obligation to make ‘reasonable modifications’ to its ban on school-masking requirements to avoid subjecting students with disabilities to unlawful discrimination,” U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled wrote in his ruling. “A state or local government cannot deny a modification for a person with a disability solely on the basis that it would violate state law.”

It was the first ruling to find that bans on mask mandates violate the federally guaranteed rights of students with disabilities.

Also last week, Abbott called for criminal investigations into whether school libraries contain “pornographic material that serves no educational purpose.” He also said school employees who provide such material should be prosecuted.

On multiple occasions this week, Gov. Gregg Abbott has claimed that “Texas students have been exposed to pornographic books and content in Texas public schools” and cited by name two memoirs that cover LGBTQ+ themes.

The Carroll ISD investigation is not the only federal involvement in schools that came to light this week. On Wednesday, it was revealed that the F.B.I. is tracking threats against educators in the wake of complaints from school boards about heated and sometimes violent comments made by members of the public at meetings earlier this fall, according to a leaked email.

The F.B.I. in October created an EDUOFFICIALS “threat tag” to classify reports of harassment or physical violence against administrators, staff, teachers and board members, according to an email sent by the F.B.I.’s criminal and counterterrorism divisions that was posted on Twitter by Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee.