San Marcos mom files complaint against daughter’s school, alleging insensitive response to racial slur

Hays

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — A local mom filed a complaint with the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District after she says a teacher made an insensitive comment regarding a racial slur. 

And at a San Marcos CISD school board meeting on Monday night, Tasha Fennell addressed the board with questions about diversity and inclusion.

Fennell said her daughter, Azariah, heard another student use the racial slur during class at Doris Miller Jr. High School in San Marcos. 

Fennell said Azariah was the only Black student in class, and is one of few Black students in the entire school.

In a park near the school on Monday, Azariah cried unexpectedly when talking about the incident. Her mom said it’s the first time she’s cried since the incident first happened back in December. 

“How it makes me feel, I don’t want someone else to go through the feeling that I had to go through,” Azariah said. 

Fennell filed a formal complaint in early January that reads in part:

A male student interrupts the class by opening the door and says, “What’s up my n—a?'” A male student in the classroom responds with, “Hey what’s up.” Azariah is sitting in the back talking to H.H., a female student. A male student says, “Dude, you can’t say that word,” while the class was still riled up from the classroom interruption.

[The teacher] states: “If Black people can say it then white people can say it, too,” Fennell said.

Fennell has also submitted two grievances to San Marcos CISD.

“I just don’t feel like it was her place to make the decision to say that in front of impressionable kids,” Fennell said. 

According to Fennell, the district questioned if what Azariah said happened really did.

“My biggest concern is that my daughter has a voice,” Fennell said. “Azariah said what she said and this is how she felt.”

After weeks of communication, Fennell requested an apology and unconscious bias or cultural responsiveness training. The district did apologize, and also agreed to more training for staff. 

In a response to the Level 1 grievance, the district said, in part:

It will be communicated to Azariah that the Miller community understands the importance of equity and the goal is to be more sensitive to the topic and utilize the experience as a teachable moment in the future. Azariah and her friends were discussing the Black Lives Matter movement when the incident occurred. The timing of the discussion may not have been appropriate but the nature of the conversation is relevant to Azariah’s cultural background and could be acknowledged.  Principal Jessie Gipprich Martin will pull Azariah during the school day and speak to her about the incident and how it made her feel.

San Marcos CISD statement

Fennell said she just wants to make sure her daughter’s feelings are validated and is pushing for diversity and inclusion moving forward. 

“At this point we’re just looking for respect, acknowledgement, and for the uncomfortable conversations to be had,” Fennell said. 

The district is doing an investigation, and is unable to speak on the matter until it’s complete.  

According to a San Marcos CISD, the superintendent has since asked Azariah to be on a leadership council that meets once a month to discuss concerns.

Her mom has also been asked to be on the diversity council that will launch in August, according to the district. 

San Marcos CISD said it completed its investigation, and released this new statement to KXAN on Wednesday, April 24.

The district said it’s in the early stages of a district-wide equity audit, which it started before this incident.

A third-party company was hired a few months ago to conduct the audit. The process will take about three years, according to the district.

San Marcos CISD says one of the first steps was surveying students to address concerns. The district said it does not have the survey results yet.

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