Federal investigators are looking into allegations of discrimination at the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas.
The U.S. Education Department’s Civil Rights Division started three investigations into complaints about discrimination against students based on their race, gender and national origin.
Karen Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the district, confirmed that they received three notification letters and are “fully cooperating with this process,” NBC News reported.
“Our district is fully cooperating with this process and diligently pulling all documents requested. These OCRs are student situations; therefore, due to the Federal Act to Education Privacy Act (FERPA), we are unable to provide or share any more specifics at this time. Our focus will always be what is best for our students as we prepare them for their next steps in their educational journey,” she said.
The Carroll school system’s handling of discrimination allegations has been the focus of national media attention this year, placing Southlake at the center of a growing political battle over school programs, books and curricula on race, gender and sexuality that some conservatives have misbranded under the umbrella of critical race theory.
The Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, is responsible for enforcing federal laws that protect students from discrimination. Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, a consulting firm that advises school districts on how to resolve civil rights complaints, said when the agency opens an investigation, it’s often the beginning of a process that can take months or years. If the investigation confirms violations of students’ rights, the agency can require a school district to make policy changes and submit to federal monitoring.
“Opening a complaint means that OCR believes that there is a likely violation based on the complaint,” the Association of Title IX Administrators president said. “And then they’re going to do their due diligence to find out more information.”
The school district had been previously accused of having issues pertaining to race when a video of white students chanting the N Word was discovered.
Their solution to the issue, a 34-page Cultural Competence Action Plan would have had teachers, students and staff subject to diversity training.
But conservative parents argued that it would create a “diversity police” and would create racism against white students.
Now candidates backed by the Southlake Families PAC, a conservative group, have won control of the school board.
Hannah Smith, an attorney who clerked for Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, was one of the conservatives who won a seat on the Carroll school board. She said the election “was a referendum on those who put personal politics and divisive philosophies ahead of Carroll ISD students and families, and their common American heritage and Texas values.”
“The voters have come together in record-breaking numbers to restore unity,” she said. “By a landslide vote, they don’t want racially divisive critical race theory taught to their children or forced on their teachers. Voters agreed with my positive vision of our community and its future.”
In a recording obtained by NBC News an administrator, Gina Peddy, was heard advising that teachers should have an alternate view on the Holocaust.
“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” she said. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”
“How do you oppose the Holocaust?” a teacher responded.
State Sen. Kelly Hancock said on Twitter that “Southlake just got it wrong.”
“School administrators should know the difference between factual historical events and fiction,” she said. “No legislation is suggesting the action this administrator is promoting.”