Standing up for change.
That is the goal of several Carroll ISD graduates, who have formed a group out of the spirit of recent protests and demands to end systemic racism across the country.
The new Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition is pushing for accountability and anti-racist change in their own community.
And their message is gaining traction.
What's really eye-opening is an Instagram account they created, calling for all current and former students to share their experiences of discrimination and racism. They received hundreds of responses, so many of which are heartbreaking.
"I was called a slave and told by two white boys that they were my masters,” former student Divya Kumar read aloud.
"My sophomore year, a teacher asked my friend if he was illegal in front of the class," reads another.
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The coalition believes all are true stories.
"In kindergarten, I walked up to two girls at recess and asked to play with them. One said, 'But no brown people can play with us,’” read Anika Shah, sharing a submission from another student.
Kumar, who graduated in 2017, and Shah, who graduated in 2019, are two of several former Carroll ISD students behind the recently formed coalition.
"We are bringing light to these stories and actually show people what's going on inside these walls,” Shah shared. "As a minority student, I was lucky to be voted as student body vice president my senior year. But I quickly noticed that a lot of the big and important conversations that I was a part of -- my opinion was often disregarded and I felt unheard."
The group's Instagram account – which gained more than 1,500 followers in a matter of days – is sparking conversations.
"It was eye-opening and shocking but I wasn’t surprised,” said Kumar. "We want to emphasize that what we're doing is meaningful change."
"I think it's absolutely ridiculous intolerant people are,” said Shah. "This is a long overdue but much needed change that needs to occur in all school systems across America."
And their efforts don't stop on social media.
"Our mission is to create long-lasting and enduring anti-racist change in the community and in Carroll ISD,” said Kumar. "And in addition, for them to acknowledge that racism and discrimination does exist in Carroll and Southlake and that it’s a pervasive wide scale issue in this community."
But members say action is long overdue in their own community.
"A culture where racism was normalized,” said Kumar. "I received a lot of colorist remarks, a lot of racist remarks and at the beginning it really hurt. Over time it didn’t stop hurting but it almost became normal."
In 2018, videos of Carroll students chanting racial slurs went viral. The same thing happened just a few months later.
In January this year, police say vandals spray painted racial slurs on Carroll Senior High School property.
The coalition says these incidents point to a greater issue in the district.
"It was really frustrating with the amount of attention that the videos got to see that there was very little accountability for those students. We need to educate the youth about the language that they're using. As well as hold them accountable when they do use that language and not just brush it off as bullying or just something that kids say," said Kumar. "What we want to see is a solid plan as to how the district is going to implement anti-racism into their actions and behaviors. And what they’re going to do to support their minority students."
Carroll ISD issued a statement this week saying they are aware of the coalition and their efforts.
“We, in CISD, are heartbroken to hear our current and former students recount these experiences in Carroll ISD. The students are very brave for sharing their personal stories. We know they are hurting and want them to know that hearing their stories has only strengthened our resolve to address racism, bigotry and acts of discrimination,” the statement read.
The District Diversity Council, which was formed by CISD in early 2019, plans to present a “cultural competence action plan" to the school board on Aug. 3. It would be implemented long-term in Carroll ISD.
“We believe change can only occur through a true a partnership between the students, parents, city and educators in the school district and that we rely on the families and community at large to reinforce the principles we teach and encourage at school and these are the steps we are taking to do our part,” the district said in the statement.
The coalition said they were able to take a look at the diversity council's action plan and actually created their own set of demands for change based on the district’s plan.
The working list of demands include a “zero-tolerance” for hatred in the CISD Student Handbook and Code of Conduct, making a concerted and committed long-term effort to diversify staff, and require teachers to be mandatory reporters in instances of racism, discrimination, or harassment.
On Friday, the coalition said they intend to release their demand letter to the community and gather signatures. It will also be presented to the board at their August 3 meeting.
As the coalition gains momentum, members say they plan to hold leaders accountable and hope other students across the country will be inspired to do the same.
"We want to see tangible change not just continue to hear that they're working on a solution,” said Kumar. "We want this to be an example of what your voice can do and how speaking out really can make a change ."