Leander ISD students speak up about ‘institutional racism’ during board meetings

Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Conversations of institutional racism have bubbled up within the Leander School District, following a district-wide equity and diversity survey.

In March, the two community conversation sessions were intended to serve as an opportunity for Leander ISD leaders to listen to the stories and experiences of Leander community members.

As a result of the two meetings, a survey was conducted by two researchers, Dr. Bradley Carpenter of Baylor University and Dr. Cherie Dawson-Edwards of the University of Louisville.

At several board of trustee meetings, former and current students have recounted painful experiences of racism and discrimination that they’ve felt.

“Please stop and really think about the message you want us to see. This is still really important to me. I might be graduating, but I still have two little brown brothers who are going through the LISD schools,” said Devan Dholakia.

Leander ISD June 18. Board Meeting.

Other parents also tell a story of what felt like racism within the district.

“I will never forget when he was 5-years-old… him and his friend were playing with scissors,” said Mother Angela Pie. “It was the language the teachers used in the referral. For my child, she said he was attempting to stab his friend. For the other child, he said he was attempting to poke their friend.”

Angela Pie also says her son didn’t get into honor society, even though he has the same achievements as the other students accepted.

“When you work hard for your grades, and you do things at the same grade level as everybody else, but you’re treated different, that’s hurtful.” said Pie.

An equity report the district released found 16 common themes. The most pressing theme was the lack of diversity within the LISD teacher population lacks.

A 2019-2020 demographic report shows Black teachers make up 2% of the population, compared to 12% Hispanic and 83% white teachers — numbers that don’t reflect the student population. It’s a challenge the district and school board say they plan to address.

“Action is important. We want action that will get us meaningful change,” said LISD School Board President, Trish Bode.

The Leander School District acknowledged that racism exists within the district, while applauding the courage of the students who spoke at the June 18 meeting. The equity discussion is on Thursday’s board agenda, as well.

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