Across the nation and state, student activists and residents with ties to their local schools are using social media accounts to organize their peers and raise awareness for discrimination happening on and off campus.
Although schools and universities have outlets in which students, faculty, and staff can report any discrimination or harassment, that doesn’t mean the affected individuals feel their voices have been heard.
North and East Texas are no exception. Students and individuals affiliated with schools have followed the trend as well, using apps such as Instagram and TikTok to shine light on issues and call for action.
The Tyler Loop sat down with local organizers to find out what propels them to organize and how they gather support. We changed participants’ names to protect their privacy.
Southlake Carroll ISD
Two hours west of Tyler on the outskirts of Dallas sits Southlake, Texas. With a population of around 31,000, Southlake is a suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Last summer during Black Lives Matter protests across the country, community members of Southlake held their own demonstration, raising awareness of the murder of George Floyd and police brutality against the Black community.
Amy, a student at Southlake Carroll ISD, said the protest in Southlake sparked the creation of their student organization, Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition (SARC). Its Instagram handle is @SouthLakeArc.
“There was a group chat and our two founders began to add people. That’s when we really began to mobilize. People were asking around if anyone wanted to join and what the plan was to make a bigger change on the district level,” said Amy.
The two student founders have since graduated from Southlake. The group is predominantly composed of people of color and LGBTQIA students who work together in order to organize their peers on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
“Our first posts were a bunch of testimonies and that kind of brought the shock value into what we’re doing, and everything just went off from there,” said Amy.
SARC’s Instagram biography says students are “pushing for tangible, enduring, anti-racist change in Southlake Carroll ISD” and includes a link to a list of demands SARC wishes to see the school implement, including the Cultural Competency Action Plan (CCAP) created by the district’s diversity council.
Amy said, “It’s a plan created to bring diversity awareness to the school and essentially protect the minorities at our school in case there’s any microaggressions, hate crimes or similar issues.”
According to Amy, fellow students often dismiss discrimination as people being “sensitive” or denying that issues even exist within the school.
“When we first announced ourselves, we brought out a list of demands, things that the school should implement aside from the cultural competency plan, because honestly the plan is very basic.”
In total SARC outlines 17 demands it would like to see the school implement. They include Southlake Carroll ISD publicly condemning recent events of police brutality; denouncing racism within the school; banning all white supremacist imagery on school property; implementing a zero-tolerance policy to racism and discrimination; and making commitments to diversify staff and ensuring teachers are implementing anti-racist education.
Last March, one of SARC’s TikTok videos gained 24,000 views. The video depicted a parent speaking in opposition to the CCAP.
The parent in the video said, “My son wants to go to Mars one day, and I would hate for him to be on a rocket where the engineers are allowed to come up with different answers or not show their work. That is where the CCAP leads.”
Amy said most of the opposition to the CCAP is coming from parents of students, some of whom are calling the plan a “Marxist agenda.”
By contrast, the plan has mobilized a large community of parent supporters at Southlake Carroll ISD. At one point the school board implemented a one minute speaking time due to the high volume of residents attending school board meetings to speak on the CCAP.
“That was very valuable because aside from the students, there were also parents saying, ‘my children go to this school and they’re people of color, it’s essential that they are protected,’” said Amy.
Amy said the CCAP and SARC have caused her peers to reevaluate their stances on race and recognize the inequalities students of color face within their school district.
“Now in my classes I hear people talking about CCAP, people texting me about what’s going to happen — if I heard the news, if there’s going to be more school meetings. A lot of students have been getting way more involved with the school and reaching out to the faculty.”
Lindale High School
Lindale, a town thirty minutes north of Tyler, is known to many East Texans for its country music stars and growing economy.
Lindale High School students have organized on the social media app Instagram, under the name @Lindalehsanon, which stands for Lindale High School Anonymous.
John, a student and organizer of Lindale, said the account was created to organize against on and off campus racism.
The account was created after a TikTok video showing a photo of a Lindale High School student dressed as a cop and posing on top of the neck of a person with their fist raised went viral. Both individuals in the photo are white. The video gained around 100,000 views before being deleted.
The TikTok video was created by a student at Lindale who is a person of color. In the Tiktok, she said the intent of the photo was to mock the murder of George Floyd. Her goal was to bring awareness to the issue and have her school hold the students in the photo responsible.
After the video was deleted, the student who created the Tiktok was taken off campus for the rest of the school year.
John said the student who created the Tiktok video is in the top 10% of her class and was placed onto “operation graduation,” a program where students learn from home.
On its Instagram account, Lindale High School Anonymous shared a screenshot of the school’s code of conduct which states that students cannot make racist or derogatory statements that will substantially disrupt the school program, regardless of whether the school is in session, where the situation took place or when.
According to John, the male student in the Halloween party photo has not been punished while the female student has been removed from the track team but remains on the drill team.
In an interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Lindale ISD Superintendent Stan Sturrat commented on the incident.
“Lindale ISD does not publicly comment on student discipline issues. The incident in question did not happen at school or at a school sponsored event. There are several accusations about the actions of Lindale ISD that are simply untrue and are misleading the public about this incident.
“Lindale ISD has a reputation of being very accepting and fair to all students and families, while having a culture that is safe and respectful for all. Lindale ISD will make no further comment about this incident but will continue to work and have an open conversation with parents and students that are involved.”
Upon the video going viral online, many Lindale students shared their frustration and opposition to the photo. According to John, some of these students were called into the principal’s office and told to delete their comments off of social media.
“We made an anonymous account essentially to relay information to the public. A lot of people who have been speaking out online have been being pulled into the principal’s office and are having their phones taken up for commenting in support of punishing the girl in the picture.
“It seems like they’re trying to block information or just stop people from talking about it. We are anonymous so they can’t do that. We have made simple, informative posts or recently we tried to organize everyone wearing black to school,” said John.
The situation has allowed for conversations around race and discrimination to begin taking place within the student body.
John said, “I and a lot of others have noticed that people have been forced to talk about racism in a way that they haven’t had to before. This is more direct and in the school system.
“A lot of people online and in person have been talking about it. I feel like a lot of people are being educated in a way that they hadn’t been before. People who previously weren’t in support of the Black Lives Matter movement are now supporting this because they see what’s happening.
“They see the actual disparities and the way that people are treated differently. They see it on a local level in a way that has directly impacted one of their peers.”
Jess Hale is a lifelong East Texan born in Nacogdoches and graduated from Waskom High School in 2016. She is also an alumnus of Kilgore College and currently a senior at The University of Texas at Tyler studying Mass Communication. In the past, Jess has been involved with community events such as Longview LGBT Pride Festival, UNSCENE Shreveport, and efforts to organize community involvement around pro-choice issues. Jess hopes to share reproductive health options and access to people in East Texas, as well as the importance of sex education.
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