Mother addresses school board after decision on superintendent
The Kennedale school board of trustees decided not to discipline the district’s superintendent at a Tuesday night meeting after a parent said the superintendent racially targeted her child at school in early May.
The district board, family and NAACP officials met in closed session at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The board returned with a decision at about 9 p.m.
Teressa Turner-Austin said Superintendent Chad Gee told her son he was “what’s wrong with Kennedale” because he is black. The Arlington NAACP represented Turner-Austin, her husband, Curtis Austin, and their son, Cameron Lyles.
The family said Gee accosted Cameron in the hallway and the office at Kennedale middle school. Cameron and a classmate were instructed by a teacher to stay back to finish their lunches as the rest of the class returned to their classroom. When Cameron was in the hallway near the classroom, Gee approached Cameron and started to yell at him and ask why he was out of class, Turner-Austin said.
Turner-Austin said Cameron made to throw his straw into the trash can and missed. Gee told him to pick up the straw, addressing him as “boy,” she said. Cameron said his name was not “boy.”
Gee took Cameron into the office and “continued to direct his undue ire at the young man,” “yelling, slamming his hands on the conference room table, calling the student ‘boy’ and ‘dude,’” a statement from the NAACP said.
Gee told Cameron, “You are what’s wrong with Kennedale!” in front of multiple witnesses, Turner-Austin said.
She said Gee should be fired for the incident. She also said staff tried to convince her to talk directly to Gee instead of filing a grievance against him.
After an hour and a half of closed session, the board announced its decision not to place Gee on leave or terminate him. The board instead voted to implement cultural diversity training for staff.
On Thursday, the board issued a statement about their decision, saying they hired an outside attorney to investigate the allegations against Gee and made a decision based on the attorney’s findings and the family’s complaint.
“The Board recognizes that Kennedale ISD is part of a changing community and that an inclusive school environment is vital to the success of our students and our District. The Board looks forward to working with the Administration to begin the process of bringing education and awareness on these issues, and to ensure that all members of the school community feel valued and appreciated for who they are and the special role they play in Kennedale ISD,” the statement said.
Gee was present for the meeting but did not make a statement.
After board members announced their decision, Turner-Austin addressed them directly.
“Thank you. Thank you so much for absolutely nothing,” she said. “It was OK for my child to be told that he is what’s wrong with Kennedale? What else would it take? For another child to be called a monkey? You can’t answer that. You sat in that room doing absolutely nothing.”
In October, a KISD teacher’s aide called a black toddler a “monkey” when the child’s grandma was signing out her elementary student in the office, said Tia Cole, Education Chair for the Arlington NAACP. The NAACP represented the family in that case, as well.
“I’m hurt,” Turner-Austin said after the meeting. “I’m hurt for myself, my family, mostly my son. We don’t know what to expect, how the new school year will be.”
She said they are planning on taking legal action against the district.
“It feels like they’re saying, ‘it’s OK for you to humiliate a child in front of their peers and faculty.’ He’s not being held accountable, so I do expect another family to be going through a similar situation in another eight months,” she said.
“I don’t want another family to have to go through this all over again. It’s very draining,” Turner-Austin said.
A few minutes after Turner-Austin, her family and NAACP representatives stepped into the hallway following the meeting, several police officers came inside the school. One officer said someone called them and said someone “was being loud.” They did not say who called them.
The officers left the school after talking with the family.
Tiffany Lake attended Tuesday night’s meeting as well. She said it was her young daughter that a teacher’s aide called a monkey in October. She said officials promised her that staff would receive diversity training shortly after, but to her knowledge, it never happened.
“When is Kennedale going to have enough?” she said.