AUSTIN, Texas – For almost one year, Black parents from Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District (LCISD) have told about allegations of racism and prejudice their children have dealt with in the classroom, specifically at Laura Bush Middle School.

“We live in that district,” said LCISD parent Tracy Kemp. “Our tax dollars go to fund that school, and my child doesn’t want to go there in fear that she will be talked about, discriminated against. bullied, harassed.”

Since then, national civil rights organizations got involved, a federal complaint was filed with the Department of Education and now, these concerns have made it to the state capitol.

“We have a pandemic in Lubbock, Texas of racism,” said Phyllis Gant with the Lubbock NAACP.  “That has been documented for almost two years with no resolution.”

At the capitol on Monday, the Texas House Youth, Health and Safety Committee heard testimony on House Bill 4625 which is meant to strengthen state laws that protect students from identity-based bullying and harassment.

“We need this bill because there needs to be a firm definition of what happens when a child is called a monkey, when a child is turned upside down, when a child is followed in a school hall with an app that makes a whipping sound indicative of slavery,” Gant said. “We need guidelines for that. 

Paige Duggins-Clay with the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) testified that Texas educators don’t have any guidance on how to handle harmful behavior in the classroom. 

“This bill really does create a process for schools to follow,” Duggins-Clay said. “Very common sense when you get a notification of any kind of bullying, but especially this kind, you document it, you report it to the appropriate authorities and you notify the parents involved.”

While many of the affected families are from the Hub City, some said this is a statewide issue.

“It’s vital that we lay a pathway out, that we collect data so we can successfully know where this is happening, and it can be addressed from beginning to end,” said Tiffanie Harrison, vice president of the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees. “Students that do the harm need to know and students that are harmed need to know that someone has their back.”

Not everyone who spoke was for the proposed bill.

“I believe that we share a common goal that all Texas students deserve to be protected and free from bullying in our public schools,” said Maurine Molak, a board member with David’s Legacy Foundation. “The reason I am not testifying in support of this bill is because I believe that this bill will create unintended negative consequences for the population we serve.”

State Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr. told the affected families he wants to work with them to make a change.

“It’s sad that you have to go through this in 2023 because there are people who would’ve suggested that this ended some time ago, but that’s not the reality that many of us are facing,” Dutton said. 

There’s less than a month left for bills to pass the house, but if passed, this act would take effect beginning with the 2023-24 school year.