Updated: Oct 9
An open letter to the Carroll Education Foundation (CEF) and board of Trustees,
On June 3rd, 2016, I was selected as one of the Carroll Education Foundation recipients of a scholarship to attend college at the University of Southern California in exchange for my likeness for further funding of the foundation.
At the time, I had no qualms with this usage and direly needed funds to supplement my education at USC. However in the last few years, I have come to deeply regret receiving any support from this foundation. In the wake of the Southlake May School Board election of 2021, CEF vociferously revoked the board membership of a Carroll Independent School District (CISD) parent and advocate for justice, Ed Hernandez, inexplicably citing that he publicly spoke out about the discrimination that he and countless other students, particularly disabled students of color, experienced living in Southlake, Texas. As a first generation Mexican immigrant and father to a disabled child, Ed has courageously voiced his struggles living in the community and the visceral racism and ableism his family has faced.
This past October, Ed Hernandez was voted to be removed from the Carroll Education Foundation board for speaking publicly about the mistreatment his disabled child faced resulting in a federal civil rights investigation of the school district, along with his campaign for school board which voiced support for students of color.
This effort was led by a CEF member who was just elected (uncontested) for school board.
The Foundation, along with the district altogether, has dangerously and irrevocably deteriorated. Board members, including the Board President, have resorted to personally and publicly harassing anyone speaking out against racism, including student advocates from the Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition - a coalition of former and current Carroll ISD students who I helped to organize in June of 2020.
With the recent decision for the Carroll ISD school board to be the first public school in the state to withdraw from the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) over their support for diversity, equity, inclusion and non-discrimination policy, CISD has now removed all gender-based and sexual-orientation based protections, banned trans children from using bathrooms, and prohibited the use of pronouns (that don’t align with sex at birth), and I can no longer remain silent about how utterly ashamed and infuriated I am with the school district that raised me. Carroll ISD cites that TASB promotes “divisive political ideologies”. However, as a queer student of color who faced years of hostile racism, discrimination, and homophobia in CISD, I hope to convey how the culture at this school for kids like me is a daily, ceaseless indescribable horror that I was subject to for 13 years.
I was 6 years old when I cried coming home on the school bus for the first time because a boy relentlessly belittled me for the sound of my name. I was 8 years old when I was first told my father is going to hell for not being Christian. I was 10 years old when I was forced by my 5th grade social studies teacher to keep my hand on my heart to recite “God bless Robert E. Lee” every single day after the pledge of allegiance. I was 10 years old when my teacher chose me out of a line of my peers because I would have been murdered in the Holocaust. I was 12 years old the first time I faced traumatically vitriolic and public cyberbullying because of my heritage, the way I looked, and my body hair, and the school said nothing could be done. I was 13 years old when my volleyball team told me I was an “alien” who “must have been secretly adopted”, pressed to explain where I “really” came from. I was 14 years old when someone said to “watch out”, near me, because “I might drop a bomb”. I was 14 years old when my team found it amusing to ridicule me for “not knowing English”, when English is my native language. I was 15 years old when I was stalked for the first time. I was 16 years old when my car was vandalized for the first time. I was 16 years old when I was told no one could be with me because I “wasn’t white” and to “go back to where I came from” (which is literally Texas, by the way, born and raised baby).
In my entire time at Carroll, I never once had a teacher who looked like me, I never once had a supportive counselor who listened to and supported me, I never once learned a single lesson that portrayed my Ancestors’ cultures, our beliefs, our beautiful art, contributions in science, technology, cooking, politics, literature, or language. I never once saw myself reflected in this school that was so quick to claim my accomplishments.
Now more than ever, after changing the student code of conduct to remove protections on the basis of “gender, sexual orientation and religion”, enforce a bathroom bill, and ban chosen pronoun usage, amid a record-breaking year for anti-LGBT legislation, and the unprecedented attempts to censor books, conversations, and course material about racism, you do not get to claim me or any previous BIPOC student, queer student, disabled student, poor student, child of immigrants, and/or any other marginalization thereof who has unforgettably and irreconcilably suffered in your school district.
I implore my fellow Southlake Carroll alumni and community members to join me in denouncing the direction of this district, to no longer accept the tokenization of our successes at the expense of our humanity, dignity, and honor.
If you are reading this now, please use your voice and speak at an upcoming Carroll ISD board or city council meeting, share this with your loved ones, spread the word about the struggle for educational equity, reconnect with and encourage any of your remaining supportive teachers still in this fight, submit an op-ed to a local publication, or mobilize with our coalition, follow our efforts, and take a moment to share your story or open letter with the Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition (email@example.com or @southlakearc).
For those who remain aligned with the current administration, make no mistake: you are on the wrong side of history. The world is watching. The students like me who you use to hold any of your credibility disavow you. You and your actions alone are responsible for all of the visceral and sustained resistance that Southlake Carroll ISD is now facing, not only nationally, but worldwide as but a piece of the much larger “educational culture wars” at play.
From the well documented evidence presented by the Peabody award winning and Emmy nominated Southlake podcast and documentary, from the 7 and counting federal civil rights investigations against the school district, from the unprecedented outpouring of condemnation from educators, religious leaders, the National Holocaust Museum, the NAACP, the ACLU, PEN America, celebrities and lay people alike, you are the people your kids will learn about in class as opponents of justice. One can’t help but see the parallels between sitting board members insisting SARC’s efforts are “radical Marxist garbage”, that “equity is social communism”, and that “God has been asked to leave our schools”, when a much similar rhetoric was historically deployed by pro-segregationists who alleged “race mixing is communism”, “save our Christian America”, and “civil rights are unconstitutional”.
Your name will be infamously known in the same breath as the ones who hurled epithets at the Little Rock 9, as those who protested the passage of Brown v. Board of education, as David Duke - former Grand Wizard of the KKK and Republican politician whose support has been warmly embraced by the Trump Administration, as Alabama Governor George Wallace who blocked the entrance to the University of Alabama for the first two Black students, and as the hate-filled politicians who tried to erase brilliant and potential-filled queer and trans youth.
This generation of current students, regardless of your influence, will be the change our world needs - the unadulterated bearers of hope, progress, and liberation who will love, accept, and embrace all. Your children will grow up to denounce you, just as we are now.
Is this how you want to be remembered?
Class of 2016, Rank: 20th out of 630
Summa Cum Laude
Co-Founder of Carroll ISD’s National Technical Honor Society
Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Texas State Champion
Carroll ISD STEM Academy Advisory Board Student Spokesperson and Representative
AP Scholar with Distinction, Distinguished Achievement Program and Success Scholar
Co-Founder of the Gender Equality Club
Vice President of Carroll ISD Chapter of Best Buddies International
Member of: National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Carroll ISD Executive Council, AP American Studies Program
Lady Dragon Freshman and Junior Varsity Volleyball Team Academic All District
Graduate of University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science with Global Scholar Distinction
Current public health professional and community organizer