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Carroll ISD rejects long-debated diversity plan in new lawsuit settlement

Members of the district's diversity council say they're disheartened by the setback but still have hope for change.

SOUTHLAKE, Texas — A new lawsuit settlement in Carroll ISD has ended efforts on a long-debated diversity and equity plan.

Parent Kristin Garcia filed the suit in fall of 2020 claiming the district violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when it accepted a diversity plan called the Cultural Competence Action Plan, or CCAP.

“The lawsuit was all about good government,” attorney Dusty Fillmore, who represented Garcia, said.

In late 2020, a judge blocked any action on the plan from moving forward and nothing had changed until the settlement last week. The board voted 4-1 with two members abstaining to approve the settlement, disband a diversity council in the district and also reject the CCAP.

“I think the right thing has happened. I think it was good for the case to resolve,” Fillmore said. “The plan was fatally flawed I think from the outset.”

“It was really disheartening,” said Nikki Olaleye, who was on the diversity council and is now a college freshman. “I feel like if they really wanted to make a change, it could’ve already happened.”

The plan had been worked on, debated and then litigated for nearly three years and followed two viral videos of students shouting a racial slur.

“All these ideas of inclusion and diversity and equity are treated like bad words,” Laura Durant, a parent who founded a district LGBTQ support group, said. “They’re taking away a feeling of safety and belonging for LGBTQ+ students, for all kinds of marginalized students.”

Garcia’s lawsuit against the district was in part funded by the conservative Southlake Families PAC.

The PAC also endorsed and partly fundraised for three newly elected board members, Andrew Yeager, Hannah Smith and Cam Bryan. Durant has questions over those three board members negotiating a settlement that agreed to pay attorneys fees for the group that backed them financially.

“It might not be illegal but it’s certainly unethical,” she said.

“I think they are allowed to do that,” Fillmore responded. “I don’t see an issue there, but again I haven’t researched it.”

While CCAP was being debated, hundreds of Carroll ISD students shared stories of bullying and racism.

“When I read these testimonies, I was really saddened, and I was shocked,” Durant said. “I think we just keep engaging and educating the community.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is now investigating three complaints in the district related to racial or gender discrimination.

Southlake isn’t the only district dealing with diversity and discrimination issues.

“I see Southlake as kind of the nexus of this anti-CRT movement and it’s snowballed,” Durant said.

“I can’t understand why you would be opposed to a diversity plan,” Olaleye said.

Olaleye is upset, unsurprised but undeterred.

“I think it is important to keep faith and continue to push for what’s right,” she said.

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