Corpus Christi ISD and Bonham ISD Discriminated Against Students of Color and Disabled Students, Complainants Allege 

Last week, Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, National Center for Youth Law, and Texas Civil Rights Project filed complaints that allege that Bonham ISD (BISD) and Corpus Christi ISD (CCISD) are discriminating against students with disabilities. Complainants also allege that BISD is discriminating against students of color.  

The heart of the issue facing both districts is that, instead of making a good-faith effort to meet the needs of chronically absent students, CCISD and BISD are  referring students with disabilities to truancy court, where they are often ordered to drop out of school. This practice denies students the learning opportunities that they are entitled to under the law. 

The complaint against CCISD, which was filed with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), alleges that CCISD overuses truancy court referrals, violating students’ right to education and accommodations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). During the 2022-2021 school year, CCISD referred 3% of its enrolled students to truancy court — a rate much higher than that of surrounding school districts. A disproportionate 13% (a total of 1,146 students) of those referred to truancy court in CCISD had special education needs. 

The complainants allege that CCISD, “consistently advises the court to order students to drop out of school and attend a GED program or other form of alternative schooling and disregards students’ or parents’ requests that they be allowed to remain in school,” according to a press release from the organizations that filed the complaint. This type of systemic practice would ultimately deny students with disabilities opportunities for any meaningful education, a violation of their rights. 

The complaint against BISD was filed with the Department of Justice and alleges that  “BISD intentionally discriminates against Black students and students with disabilities by perpetuating a hostile environment on the basis of race and disability.”  

One of the students referenced in the complaint, a Black student with disabilities referred therein as “C.J.,” was denied necessary accommodations and was ordered by a truancy court to drop out and obtain a G.E.D. This forced dropout conflicted both with his Individualized Education Program (IEP) as well as the terms of his probation that required he attend school. The violation of his probation resulted in C.J. being incarcerated three times in 12 months. The complaint alleges that BISD violated the Equal Protection Clause, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Another one of the students referenced in the BISD complaint, referred therein as “B.E.,” was racially harassed and subjected to racial slurs lobbed by his peers. When B.E. reported this harassment, school employees and administrators repeatedly failed to intervene. 

“No child should have to endure racial abuse or be pushed out of school due to their disability,” said Hannah Benton Eidsath, senior director for Justice & Equity at the National Center for Youth Law, in the press release announcing the complaints. “These school districts not only showed an appalling lack of regard for students’ rights, but an equally heartbreaking lack of respect for students’ humanity.”