Parents, Students Speak Out at School Board Meeting

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Kaleigh Stewart

Two community members hold signs in the foyer of the administration building before Monday night’s meeting.

Olivia Caggiano and Kaleigh Stewart

The Aledo ISD School Board held a meeting Monday night at which community members commented on the racist Snapchat group chat and the slave trade flyers that were found scattered outside of McAnally Intermediate School, the Parks of Aledo and Aledo High School, and on the response from the board and district.

There was a line that stretched outside the administration building before the meeting even began. Members of Parker County Progressives stood in the foyer of the building with anti-racism signs.

At the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Susan Bohn outlined four initial steps the district plans to take in order to combat racism in the community. 

These steps include reinforcing the appropriate response and disciplinary measures in the case of racism and the use of slurs with staff and students, forming a board of trustees working group that will meet with a diverse group of staff and community members to help to continue to focus on issues of racism and a parent training opportunity.

The board then began the public comment segment of the meeting. Over 20 community members spoke for a total of two hours.

Freshman Chris Johnson, one of the students targeted in the group chat, opened the public comment section by reminding the board of the effect this has had on him and his friend Aven Lawrence, who was also targeted in the group chat.

“Me and Aven were the ones that were overloaded with questions, rumors and speculations,” Johnson said. “The Superintendent or Board has not admitted or apologized to us or to Aledo that they handled [the situation] wrong at first.”

He went on to ask the Board to make changes to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all students in Aledo, reminding them that the only apology he will accept is “changed behavior.”

Community member and mother of two, Maria Turner tearfully shared her family’s experiences while living in Aledo, including a racist incident that happened on Halloween to her 8-year-old son Elijah.

“What started off as a friendly game of cops and robbers quickly turned south when several kids tackled my eight-year-old to the ground,” Turner said. “As he lay with his face pressed into the cement, he pleaded with them to get off of him. He told them he couldn’t breathe. As he struggled to break free, one of the children said, ‘Hey, put your knee on his neck.’”

McCall Elementary parent and community member Ella Bullock addressed comments and language she saw in district communications and on community forums such as “This is not who Aledo is,” and “The actions of a few students.” She said these comments minimize the severity of racism in the community and school district and emphasized the effects of inaction on the part of the board and ISD.

“Inaction on the part of our collective community and the Aledo Independent School District to take meaningful steps to confront the pockets of racism that exist here has created a platform where covert behaviors like microaggressions, stereotyping and bias go unaddressed,” Bullock said. 

Bullock provided manila folders to each board member containing screenshots of over 60 racial slur-filled submissions to a community survey that she created. 

The simple reality is that this is who we have allowed ourselves to become through inaction. ”

— Ella Bullock

“I look forward to a districtwide communication on the timeline for an action plan that was outlined in Dr. Bohn’s most recent email,” Bullock said.

Calls for a specific action plan and timeline echoed throughout the meeting room Monday night, including from freshman Korley Edwards, who requested that a FLEX time be designated to address racism in the school.

“I believe that the school needs to administer lessons on how to address racism, seeing how it has become an ignored problem in this district,” Edwards said. “It has become too normalized and I know that if we start lessons that show how wrong this is and show them to the students in Aledo, we can create a more comfortable environment and, quite frankly, a less racist school and community.”

Johnson and Edwards were joined in their statements by fellow student and senior Jeremiah James. James’s statement, read by Traci Parsons, talked about the racism he has experienced as a student at Aledo. According to the statement, an incident occurred in James’s sophomore year art class where another student drew slaves in chains and referred to them as a slur. 

“The teacher promoted his art piece as ‘expressing himself,’” James’s statement said. “I went to the office myself to inform them of what had happened and I was told, basically, ‘What do you want us to do about it?’”

James’s statement went on to say that his experiences with racism inside the school have left him self-conscious and deeply affected him emotionally. His statement said that, while not every student or teacher is prejudiced, racism does live inside of the school.

“Every time I came forward about a student making racist statements or any type of discriminatory act, the staff every time has failed me and made it seem as if this is acceptable behavior,” James’s statement said.

Community members wait for the board meeting to begin. (Kaleigh Stewart)

President of the Board Hoyt Harris closed the public comment section with a promise to come back with a timeline and action plan as parents and speakers requested.

“We’ve got to do this as a community,” Harris said. “And I want to thank you for your input.”