DALLAS - Southlake's mayor and a Republican congresswoman publicly criticized federal investigations into race and gender complaints against Carroll ISD.
Mayor John Huffman suggested the investigations were some sort of "retaliation" over recent school board elections. He said the timing of the Department of Education’s announcement of an investigation could not have been worse for this community. He calls it a costly distraction for the new school board at a time when tax dollars should be focused on supporting teachers and students.
In a video statement on Thursday, Superintendent Lane Ledbetter said the three complaints against the district filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights were filed through an advocacy group, which he did not name.
The district learned about the complaints on Friday but says it has not received copies of the complaints themselves.
"Since these OCR complaints were filed in April, we spent a lot of time over the summer working on processes and procedures," Ledbetter said.
In an email, a district spokesperson explained it now has one office that oversees all complaints and manages a streamlined investigation process for all campuses. In the past, those complaints were handled differently from campus to campus.
"I feel very confident that the adjustments we’ve made this far, the protocols that we’ve developed with our principals, that we’ve implemented this year created a more aligned process and hopefully our students and our staff are seeing some benefits from that," Ledbetter said.
Huffman released a statement addressing the federal investigation on social media saying, "I don't think I am alone in wondering if this investigation is retaliation for our voters rejecting the pro-CRT CCAP plan."
He’s referencing the cultural competence action plan developed after a 2018 video showed white students using the n-word.
It calls for things like cultural sensitivity training for students and teachers, diverse hiring practices, promoting cultural awareness and anti-bullying practices.
It’s been falsely connected to Critical Race Theory.
This year, three school board candidates ran against the plan and won.
Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne on Thursday suggested the U.S. Department of Education is targeting Southlake because of those elections. She wrote a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that was co-signed by senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.
Looking ahead, Ledbetter says investigators could ask for additional details or interviews.
"If they determine that there are steps that we can take beyond what we have implemented, then we will absolutely comply," he said.
Meanwhile, Carroll ISD is still grappling with a series of controversies that gained national headlines, including a widely publicized recording of an administrator suggesting to teachers if they have a book on the Holocaust then they should offer a book with an opposing view. It was used as an example to interpret a new state law.
On Monday, the school board discussed a policy change that would ban employees from recording meetings without consent. The proposed policy change will likely be brought to a vote next month.
Also this week, the board of trustees chose a new president. The previous president, Michelle Moore, was indicted for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act by discussing the diversity plan in a text message outside of a board meeting.