Federal complaint alleges Texas school district discriminated against students due to race, disability

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A federal complaint filed Tuesday alleges a school district in Texas has discriminated against students based on their race and disabilities, leading them to get pushed out of school and, at times, incarcerated. 

The complaint was filed by four civil rights groups on behalf of two complainants to the Department of Justice, alleging Bonham Independent School District (BISD) has violated federal civil rights laws and the constitution by creating a hostile environment on the basis of a person’s race or disability.  

In a statement from the four groups, they say students with disabilities at BISD were not given proper accommodations for them to get their education. The groups allege the students were then pushed out of school through the truancy process, which occurs when students miss too many days of school.  

“Our client with disabilities was entitled to reasonable accommodations, but he was incarcerated three times in 12 months due to the school’s failure to properly accommodate him which caused him to break his terms of probation,” said Olivia Lee, an attorney with Disability Rights Texas. “One of those three times was when the truancy court ordered him to drop out of school, an order that directly conflicted with his probation term to graduate.”  

Regarding racial discrimination at the school, the groups allege Black students have faced racial slurs with no condemnation of the actions from the district. In addition, the complaint says the school resource officer is racially targeting students.  

“Racial slurs that were said to one complainant and other Black students, such as the n-word, ‘cotton picker,’ and ‘black monkey,’ were not unequivocally rebuked by school administrators who heard them,” the statement said. 

Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, National Center for Youth Law and Texas Civil Rights Project are asking the DOJ to investigate the matter and put an end to the school’s practices.  

The Hill has reached out to BISD and the DOJ for comments.  

The four groups also filed a complaint to the Texas Education Agency against Corpus Christi Independent School District for discrimination against students with disabilities by allegedly pushing them out of school through the truancy process. 

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