A Texas mother accuses the school district where her sons attend of failing to condemn racism. She claims that they have been subjected anti-Asian American taunts and her older child had a swastika on his shirt in last year.
Hai Au Huynh (45) told NBC News she felt she had no choice but speak out after the Cypress-Fairbanks School District incident, located just outside Houston.
She recalled how, in May last year, an 11-year old boy’s shirt was marked with a swastika. Huynh claims that school officials have refused to honor her family’s request to “stay away” from the offending student since. Huynh said that months before, in January of this year, a student taunted Huynh’s sons as they rode home on the bus from McGown Primary School, chanting “[ch*** ***] Wing wong” at her 8-year-old. Officials responded by saying the words “were not motivated by racism.”
Huynh claimed she had viewed the surveillance video taken by the bus, but was not able to get a copy of it despite asking for one.
The school district investigated the incident. A summary of the investigation seen by NBC News stated that the fourth grade student “sang a song he presumably learned from TIK TOK, with the words ‘ch*** ch ***.'”
The summary stated that the child did not act out of racism, but rather “to annoy” the other children.
The summary stated that the 4th grader was unaware of the racist nature of the words “ch*** ch ***”]”. The student is heard on the bus recording questioning the matter, and he admitted to being unaware during the investigation.
Huynh says her son did try to stop this behavior.
She said, “My son, who was eight years old, told him to stop, saying that it is racist. The child continued to mock me.”
NBC News viewed student incident reports containing accounts of her sons and found that the child who was offended had been told that his words were racist.
Huynh pointed out that the refusal of the district to condemn and address the incident publicly was one of the most disappointing findings. In the summary, it was stated that the campus “determined their priority to be education of the students and not the community as a whole.”
Huynh stated that it is important that the district addresses racism given the history and incidents of racism that have occurred. In 2017, the district was in the news when a class of seniors did a Nazi salute for their photo.
In a statement sent to BuzzFeed News by the school district, it said “appropriate measures have been taken.”
The district expressed its disappointment at the actions of some students on one campus.
Huynh warned that students of color may feel less welcomed if the district does not take further action.
“Even if he doesn’t have a ‘racial motive,’ the student learned these horrifying, horrible words somewhere.” Huynh stated that by not addressing the issue with a wider community, you are complicit in his use. “And I told them that at my meeting.
Huynh stated, “I hope that other families who are experiencing this type of hatred will be encouraged and supported to speak out.” I think that this is the way change occurs — when people speak up together.
NBC News did not receive a response from McGown Elementary School or the school district regarding their request for comment.
Huynh revealed that her family was at the center of a second, more concerning incident a few months later. Her older son’s fifth-grade classmates were signing each other’s backs on T-shirts as the school year ended. Huynh reported that her son, upon taking off his T-shirt, noticed that someone had written a swastika.
She said, “My son is very aware of what a swastika represents.” “He was horrified, and quickly scribbled it over because he didn’t want anyone to think he drew and supported it.”
Huynh claimed that after the incident was reported to the school on the same day by the family, officials conducted an investigation in a week without consulting her child. She said that shortly after, she filed an official complaint with the school. She asked them to issue a’stay away agreement’ to prevent offenders from coming in contact with her child.
She said that neither Sprague Middle School nor the elementary school, where both her son and the offender attended, acted on the agreement. Huynh said that she had filed two more grievances and participated in three school hearings. She also spoke at a November board meeting about her son’s experiences.
The district’s response to Huynh’s grievance, as seen by NBC News in its latest report, denied Huynh’s request for a stay-away agreement due to an “incident that occurred at the end 2022-2023 of the school year”. It also stated that a safety plan had been implemented at the middle-school, which included regular check-ins and assurances that Huynh’s son would not share a classroom with the offending student.
Sprague Middle School has not responded to NBC News’ comment request. The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent school district sent a statement to the local outlet ABC13 that stated only that district leadership met with parents. The district did not specify how or if they had disciplined the students, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This law protects student education records.
The district stated that “if an investigation reveals an inappropriate behavior, then the campus will assign a discipline consequence in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct.”
Huynh was denied Huynh’s request to reinstate “Resolution Condemning Racism”. The resolution was unanimously adopted in 2020, but has since been scrapped. It had included a program called “No Place for Hate”, developed by the nonprofit Anti-Defamation League to combat bias and bullying. A new character education program has been introduced in its place.
The district responded by saying that the elementary school does not have the authority necessary to reinstate the decision.
LauraAnn Novacinsk did not respond to NBC News request for comment.
Huynh should receive a reply to her most recent appeal this week. She said that if her district does not meet her demands she will escalate the matter to the Texas Education Agency.
She said, “At the very end of the school day, it is a public institution.” It should be fair for all students and it isn’t.
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