A group of Irving High School students is demanding action over complaints about racial, religious and sexual harassment and discrimination by adults at their campuses.
During stay at home time, the students exchanged social media, discovered similar concerns from in-person class time at multiple Irving High Schools, and formed an organization they call ‘Irving Diverse Student Alliance,’ or IDSA.
They claim 40 students have come forward with complaints at Irving High School, Nimitz High School, MacArthur High School and Singley Career Academy.
With their parents’ approval, NBC5 spoke with three of the Irving students Friday.
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Singley student Shamama Anjum said she receives frequent harassment over her Muslim faith and the hijab veil she wears.
“I always hear the kids, students making racial, hijab comments. If teachers hear it, they allow it. They don’t step in. They don’t tell them to stop and at times they even laugh about it,” she said.
Singley student Anyssa Martinez said a staff member once told her she is a “fake Latino.”
“She said that because my skin color was just a little bit lighter and I wasn’t brown, that I wasn’t supposed to call myself that, that I didn’t own it,” Martinez said.
MacArthur student Elizah Esquibel said the group wants changes.
“We have asked to push more sensitivity training, longer, more hands-on for the teachers. A lot of teachers that we ask about their training, they say they don’t remember it. It was like five minutes,” she said. “How do you go over so many cultures and so many religions in like five minutes? They don’t remember it. And that’s why a lot of teachers don’t know what to do in situations like that.”
MacArthur High School was the center of international attention five years ago when student Ahmed Mohamed was arrested and suspended from classes for bringing to school a clock that a teacher thought might be a bomb.
The student was later released and invited to the White House by then President Barack Obama as a show of support for technology education.
Irving ISD at the time supported the teacher and administrators’ actions.
“I don't think change has happened at MacArthur. I think it's still a lot of racially charged issues,” Esquibel said.
Irving ISD Trustees have taken the student complaints seriously. A special school board meeting was held outdoors on June 9 to hear the students speak.
School Board President A.D. Jenkins said Friday that he wants to hear from administrators at Monday’s school board meeting before making any comments.
A request for comment from administrators Friday was answered with an email statement from Communications Director Nicole Mansell.
“Irving ISD values all students and believes each one should be treated with respect, equality and compassion. The district is committed to providing an environment where all students can safely learn.”
“This past month, concerns and accusations regarding racism and sexism from several of our students have been brought to our attention. The behaviors indicated in these complaints are not tolerated in Irving ISD and are not an accurate depiction of the caring, compassionate and empathetic staff we strive to hire. The district pledges to investigate each of these allegations thoroughly.”
“In 2015, Irving ISD began training teachers to intentionally develop a culturally responsive staff. Additionally, every teacher takes a course on ethical standards, bullying and hazing. The district also plans to offer cultural diversity training to students. We will remain committed to educating our staff and students about the importance of celebrating cultural diversity.”
“Irving ISD is devoted to building a culture of kindness and compassion”