smcisd

Star File Photo of San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District Administrative Offices.

San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) parents brought attention to the district superintendent's response to an alleged incident involving racist comments at Doris Miller Middle School during the district's April 19 school board meeting.

In January, SMCISD parent Tasha Fennell issued a complaint against the district after her daughter informed her about her teacher's response to when a student in the classroom said a racial slur. According to Fennell's complaint, another student told the student he could not say the slur in which their teacher responded by saying, "If Black people can say it then white people can say it, too."

Fennell, who was in attendance at the April 19 board meeting, says she contacted SMCISD Superintendent Michael Cardona's office on Jan. 4 to discuss the issue but was instead contacted by Rose Pearson, the district's faculty member handling the complaint. Fennell says she did not receive a response from Cardona until March 2.

"Are you that busy, you can't take a call from a parent in regard to a teacher on campus responsible for our kids? When a concern is brought to your attention, [it] is extremely necessary to stop and actively listen," Fennell says. "Cardona, in 2020, you put out a statement saying you supported Black Lives Matter. Yet, you were too busy for my child and I to even speak to you. Do you know that your Black families are tired of the way we are being treated?"

Cardona issued a statement to KXAN indicating the district concluded its investigation of the incident and found that the teacher did not condone the use of the slur.

Azariah, Fennell’s daughter, joined the Superintendent's Leadership Council, according to the statement. The council meets monthly to address district concerns.

"My sincere belief is that no SMCISD employee would ever condone the use of racial slurs," Cardona says in the statement. "The district maintains a firm stance against all forms of racism and culture insensitivity."

Fennell says it is not okay for the district to simply dismiss the situation. She adds when students find themselves brave enough to speak up, they should be heard instead of belittled.

"Stop trying to change their voice, address the teacher, address the school and make your families aware of what's going on at the school. Trying to keep quiet only makes it harder to trust," Fennell says.

A statement from Azariah, who is also the only Black student in the class, was read during the meeting. Her statement explained how the actions of her teacher impacted her and her seventh-grade experience severely.

Azariah adds in the statement that she hates having to see her teacher every day knowing that nothing has been done. She says she wishes her teacher realizes she has students of all races and colors, not just white students.

"I just hope and pray that what happened to me doesn't happen to anyone else because the pain I went through was excruciating and not fair," Azariah says in her statement. "After all this, I just feel that I can't trust teachers anymore and that they really don't care about you. They just care about their jobs."

Jerrell Turner, a Texas State alumnus and SMCISD parent of three, says he believes the event Azariah and her family described in their complaint to be factual. He adds based on the superintendent's statement, the incident is being "swept under the rug."

"By [Cardona's] inaction, [he has] set a precedent for not only educators but students and town residents," Turner says. "If the goal is diversity, it would be counter-intuitive and counterproductive to not address this issue as swiftly as possible."

Sabrina Crayton, a new SMCISD parent, says she was concerned about the response to the incident and adds the lack of action is unacceptable with the current tumultuous climate surrounding the Black community.

"It is clear that what has transpired is not being handled properly and [is] creating a non-inclusive, tense and chaotic environment for our children," Crayton says. "This cannot be tolerated."

An agenda item scheduled for the board meeting included considering the renewal of Cardona's superintendent contract. SMCISD parent Rodrigo Amaya questioned the agenda item and says Cardona has not done anything positive for students.

"All I hear about [Cardona] or have heard is excuses," Amaya says. "[Cardona is] not the example that our children need in this community or in any community, in any civilized community. Do not renew his contract, seriously give it some consideration to terminate it. Again, this has to change."

The University Star will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

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