The president of the Fort Worth Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference announced Wednesday that the civil rights group will investigate alleged remarks made by Richland High School softball coach Brenda Jacobson.
“Racism is deadly and it can no longer be tolerated within our society and especially within our public schools,” the Rev. Kyev Tatum, president of the local chapter, said in a news release.
The group said it plans to meet with Birdville schools Superintendent Darrell Brown, principal Carla Rix and the softball players who told school officials about Jacobson’s comments. Tatum contacted Brown on Wednesday morning with the hopes of starting a productive dialogue.
Brown wrote in an email to Tatum that he would address the issue Thursday, when he returns from a family vacation.
Based on what he knows, Tatum felt like the issue was glossed over by the Birdville school district, which allowed the Confederate battle flag to be a symbol of Richland school spirit until 1993. Richland’s mascot is still a Rebel, and a school-sponsored spirit group is called the Johnny Rebs.
Jacobson was ultimately reprimanded by Rix for “inappropriate communication” to players, according to open records received Tuesday by the Star-Telegram. She was also placed on leave during the investigation, but for less than one school day.
“We’re hoping that this will be an incredible opportunity to assess this issue,” Tatum said. “You give a teacher a couple days of leave, but does it really address the issue or is it a case of moving past it as quick as possible? When you try to put the fire out so quick and clean up everything, then you do an injustice to those who were affected.”
In the reprimand letter, Rix instructed Jacobson to “adhere to professional communication” with players and parents and to not “make reference to any person regarding race or skin color.”
As the Star-Telegram originally reported in April, Jacobson was accused in March of making remarks this past season and in 2014. They included:
▪ Telling a black player that “the sun is more attracted to you because you are black.”
▪ Referring to a black player’s hair as “nappy and nasty.”
▪ Saying that a black player wouldn’t do a certain drill “because there is water on the ground and black people don’t like water.”
▪ Telling a black player, “see, everyone is white on the inside,” after the player cut her leg after sliding into a base.
Jacobson denied making the remarks, which were alleged by multiple players and denied by others. In total, 11 players were interviewed during the investigation, according to Rix’s reprimand letter.
“We are living in a time when folks feel that it is OK to demean and demoralize people who are of a different race. It is shameful that black people must continue to fight for equal protection within our society and community,” Tatum said in the release.
The group said it will notify the Texas Education Agency and the U.S. Department of Education after it has conducted its investigation.
“We will gather all the facts and will report our findings to the proper authorities,” Tatum said. “The hatred within the halls of our public schools is as dangerous as the hatred at home and we must develop a zero tolerance for the mistreatment of black children within our public schools. The burden is too great and the emotional and psychological impact has [been] a severe cause of impotent rage within many of our young blacks.”
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760