Southlake is recognized for that is top-ranked publicly schools. But a heated fight end a diversity setup has part parents questioning their future in the city.

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Robin Cornish, a mommy of five, moved to Southlake, Texas, an ext than two years ago.Nitashia Johnson / for NBC News
Robin Cornish was at work-related in the autumn of 2018 when she acquired a text message from one more parent. It was a link to a video clip showing several white high institution students laughing as they filmed us shouting the N-word at a party.

One of the student in the video clip had mutual it ~ above Snapchat, and also now it to be going viral.

Cornish, a 51-year-old Black mommy of five, known the girl leading the chant as the younger sibling of among her son’s former friends. Cornish to be upset as she watched the 8-second clip, she said, however she wasn’t surprised.

This to be Southlake, Texas, ~ all.

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The elite, greatly white suburb 30 miles northwest the Dallas has actually a call as one of the ideal places in the country to progressive a family, thanks in huge part to its very ranked public college system: The Carroll Independent institution District, residence of the Dragons, whereby the mean home expenses $650,000 and also average sat scores are an excellent enough to gain students into top-tier universities.

But the video of Carroll high schoolers shouting the N-word was around to expose one more side that the fast-growing and also quickly diversifying community, one that Cornish and also other black parents quietly referred to as Southlake’s “dirty secret.”


This to be the city where, top top the day after Rosa Parks passed away in 2005, elementary school youngsters told Cornish’s four oldest kids “now you have to sit in the ago of the bus,” she said. It’s wherein a 6th grade boy when joked with her son: “How perform you get a black out that a tree? You reduced the rope.” the where, weeks after she husband passed away suddenly in 2008, a white boy on the football team told her son, “Your mother is only voting for Obama due to the fact that your dad is dead and also she"s walking to require welfare.”

Ever because Cornish moved to Southlake much more than two years earlier, these were the species of story that were discussed among a little group of black parents and otherwise brushed up under the rug. Yet the 2018 video clip couldn’t be ignored. Within days, that attracted countless views on society media and also seemed to cause genuine soul-searching by school leaders.

The district hosted listening sessions through parents and students, gathering countless accounts that racist, xenophobic and also anti-gay comments choose those described by Cornish’s children. Afterward, the institution board developed a diversity board of directors of much more than 60 parents, teachers and also students come come up through a arrangement to make Carroll much more welcoming and inclusive.

“I to be hopeful,” Cornish said. “It felt prefer there was a genuine dialogue in the community.”

Then came the backlash. In hindsight, Cornish said, she should have seen that coming.

This past summer — virtually two years after the viral video clip — the institution board unveiled a plan that would require diversity and also inclusion training for every students as component of the K-12 curriculum, while amending the student code of conduct to particularly prohibit acts of discrimination, referred to in the record as “microaggressions.”

Within days, outraged parental — many of lock white — formed a political action committee and began packing college board meetings to voice their solid opposition. Part denounced the diversity arrangement as “Marxist” and also “leftist indoctrination” designed to “fix a difficulty that no exist.” The opponents said they, too, want all students to feel safe in ~ Carroll, yet they said that the district"s setup would instead create “diversity police” and also amounted come “reverse racism” against white children.

The conflict grew therefore heated that parents on both political parties pulled children out that the college system, while rather made to plan to relocate out that town. One mother sued the district, effectively putting the diversity arrangement on hold.

As the hit intensified, Cornish, whose youngest boy graduated in 2018, started to think differently about Carroll’s main motto, stamped on T-shirts and also yard signs across Southlake.

“Protect the Tradition.”

She began to wonder: What was the legacy her next-door neighbors were fighting to protect?

‘Everyone smiles in Southlake’

Robin and Frank Cornish moved to Southlake in 1993, quickly after Frank to be signed as an attack lineman by the Dallas Cowboys. Earlier then, the city was more rural 보다 suburban — little an ext “than a two-lane dirt road,” Robin chosen to joke.

Frank Cornish in his Dallas Cowboys jersey in 1994.Al Messerschmidt / AP

There weren’t countless other black color folks as soon as the Cornishes arrived, however Frank dropped in love through the broad open space. And with their very first son shortly on the way, Robin Cornish favored the prospect of sending their kids to top-notch windy schools.

Like many tiny towns in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area in the at an early stage 1990s, Southlake to be on the cusp of explosive population growth. In the nearly three decades since the Cornishes arrived, Southlake’s population has tripled to an ext than 31,000 residents, thrust in part by a rise of immigrants from south Asia. Hundreds more Black people additionally moved in, though they still consist of less 보다 2 percent that the population in a city whereby 74 percent of inhabitants are white.


With that proximity come the Dallas-Fort Worth international Airport and also the headquarters of several Fortune 500 companies, the city became a magnet for affluent professionals, with the median family income now topping $230,000.

As it grew, Southlake gained a call in the Dallas area together a sort of suburban utopia, through master-planned neighborhoods and dominant high school sports programs. A 2007 D magazine article about the Carroll football team’s run of state championships described the city’s “otherworldly” charm.

“They’re good at whatever in Southlake,” the newspaper said. “If you’ve never ever been, yes sir something a tiny Pleasantville around it. The roads are cleaner 보다 your streets, the downtown much more vibrant, the students much more courteous, their parents much more prosperous. Everyone is beautiful in Southlake. Everyone smiles in Southlake.”

Southlake got a call in the Dallas area together a sort of suburban utopia. Nitashia Johnson / for NBC News

After retiring indigenous the NFL, open minded Cornish immersed self in the place. He started volunteering together a coach because that youth football teams and later served as chairman of the city’s parks and recreation board. That even convinced a couple of ex-Cowboys teammates to relocate to the city to raise your children.

“Everybody supplied to always think of him as the unofficial mayor of Southlake,” Robin Cornish said. “He knew everybody, and everybody love him. He eventually wanted to run for mayor.”

But once Frank died of a heart strike in 2008 in ~ the period of 40, Robin Cornish faced a daunting decision. She thought seriously about moving she five kids to Chicago, whereby she"d get an impressive up. In spite of Southlake’s plenty of accolades, she’d get an impressive troubled through the secure drumbeat of racially insensitive remarks — some subtle, part overt — the Black people often endure in affluent neighborhoods where the vast majority of citizens don’t look favor them.

One example: annually when Cornish’s children were small, Carroll 5th graders were forced to participate in colonial Day, an education celebration in i m sorry students dress up like personalities from the 1600s. But tiny thought appeared to get in what that supposed for black color children, Cornish said, an monitor that became all too clear as soon as a classmate told among her daughters that she couldn’t dress up choose a nurse; she would have actually been a slave.

But after her husband’s funeral, Cornish decided to stick the out. Although it would certainly be a battle to cover the high cost of living on a nurse"s salary, she had a support mechanism in Southlake, and also Cornish didn’t want to add to her children’s trauma by taking them from their friends.

“At the time, i knew the was no the finest environment for the kids,” she said. “But they’d simply lost their dad.”

She additionally knew it would certainly be difficult to discover a school district to complement Carroll’s academic excellence.

And she children’s education was what mattered most.

A arrangement to face racism

After the 2018 viral video, the Carroll college board referred to as a unique meeting and invited members that the community to share your thoughts on how to move forward.

Cornish was the first to action up come the microphone. Reading from ready remarks, she rattled off a few of the racist comment she said her kids had endured.

“The scars room there, the wounds room permanent,” she told the board, as part in the audience wiped far tears, according to people who attended. “You all have to take a stand. You’ve gained to readjust this curriculum. You’ve gained to adjust the ton in this town.”

The audience of mostly white parents clapped together Cornish stepped away from the lectern. An ext parents followed, each sharing story of racism bullying that traumatized your children, with small or no results for the offending students.

Michelle Moore, a institution board trustee, remembered feeling a mix the anger and also shame as she listened. She had actually no idea therefore many kids felt favor they’d been bullied in ~ Carroll based upon their race. How could she have been for this reason oblivious?

Carroll ISD school board president Michelle Moore stated the district had a duty to create an inclusive discovering environment.KXAS

“I left that meeting saying, ‘This is unacceptable, and also this is no going to it is in the way it is under mine watch,’” stated Moore, the hispanic daughter the Cuban immigrants, that has due to the fact that been appointed by the school board to serve as the president. “We had actually a responsibility as a plank to perform something.”

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It was the start of a almost two-year initiative to readjust the way the school district of 8,500 students handle diversity and also inclusion. The initiative acquired momentum in February 2019 as soon as a 2nd video surfaced of Carroll college student yelling the N-word, and also again a year later on when three teens spray-painted racist slurs at Carroll High School. The school device put the end a call for volunteers and appointed 63 ar members to a diversity council that would certainly study possible solutions.

The college board recruited Russell Maryland, candid Cornish’s friend and a previous Cowboys teammate, to loan his celebrity together a former No. 1 NFL draft choose to the committee’s work.

The an outcome of the effort — a 34-page paper known together the social Competence activity Plan — to be made publicly in July. It called for mandatory cultural sensitivity maintain for all Carroll students and also teachers, a formal procedure for reporting and also tracking events of racist bullying, and changes to the password of conduct to hold students accountable for acts the discrimination. The plan also proposed developing a brand-new position at Carroll, director of equity and inclusion, come oversee the district’s efforts.

“The means we observed it, this to be a fairly basic plan,” said Maryland, who is Black, noting the many large school districts already have comparable policies. “Just a an easy plan of human being decency, empathy, kindness, inclusion and also understanding about other cultures. It"s as simple as that — or so we thought.”

Moore, the school board president, claimed what followed was “a perfect storm.”

The diversity setup was released together the nation was in the midst of an emotionally charged reckoning end racial injustice adhering to the death of George Floyd through police in Minneapolis. In ~ the exact same time, dozens of parental who’d never paid much attention to institution board meetings were currently coming to comment on the district’s plans because that resuming in-person instruction during the coronavirus pandemic.

“How many much more things deserve to you heap up that civilization are anxious, upset and fearful about all in ~ one time?” Moore said.

Southlake’s ‘true colors’

The opposition to the diversity arrangement was fierce, immediate and also well organized.

Moore and other board members were flooded through angry emails indigenous parents. Some formed a political activity committee, Southlake families PAC, and started a website demanding the the plank “focus on autumn classes, not setting up a district diversity police!” The group easily raised an ext than $100,000 from dozens the residents, consisting of from few of the high-powered executives and also leading conservative who’ve resolved in Southlake. (Dana Loesch, a former National Rifle association spokeswoman and also right-wing media star who stays in Southlake, gave the team $2,000, project finance documents show.)

For months last summer and also into the fall, the general public comment section of Carroll’s institution board meetings came to be a spectacle, together dozens the parents confirmed up each week to speak against the plan.

The Carroll Independent school District is just one of the top-ranked public school systems in Texas.Nitashia Johnson / for NBC News

A white father claimed he supported introducing youngsters to different societies but suggested that the district’s arrangement would instead teach college student “how to it is in a victim” and also force lock to take on “a liberal ideology” in a city where much more than two-thirds that voters cast ballots for President Donald trump in 2020.

Several parents said the setup would infringe on your Christian worths by to teach children around issues affect gay and also transgender classmates. Others warned the the board had actually awoken Southlake’s “silent majority.”

Opposition to the diversity setup coalesced about two central points: that the district’s student password of conduct already prohibited bullying in every forms, and the belief among some conservatives that any instruction that emphasizes racial differences can only perpetuate fairly than cure divisions. Some opponents flatly denied the systemic racism exists and argued that kids should it is in taught not to see race.

Even Southlake mayor Laura Hill, who’d held meetings on fighting intolerance after ~ the 2018 viral video, speak out versus the plan, creating in a letter come the college board in September the the procedure had short transparency, producing a “crisis that confidence” among Southlake residents. Hill, who is white, urged the board to invite an ext community stakeholders right into the procedure to “earn ago our citizens’ confidence.”

At one institution board meeting, some in attendance booed Nikki Olaleye, a black color 12th grade student at Carroll an elderly High School, after she turned come the audience and also declared: “Black resides matter. My life matters.”

Nikki Olaleye and also other Carroll high institution students developed the Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition to demand changes in the district. Nitashia Johnson / for NBC News

To demonstrate the require for reforms, Olaleye and also several various other members that the student-led Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition collected an ext than 300 account from current and also former Carroll college student who stated they’d been mistreated because of their race, religious beliefs or sex-related orientation.

“One time in 3rd grade, ns was checking out a publication at the library once a boy in my course told me to go to the back of the line since ‘that"s where slaves belong,"” one existing student wrote.

A college student who routinely wore a hijab recalled a Carroll student asking whether she was Osama bin Laden’s sister: “I remember going come the restroom crying. This has happened to me numerous times in middle school and throughout high school.”

"I got referred to as the N-word by a team of white boys in town Square,” an additional student wrote, “and eventually had to discover to overlook it as soon as I heard students speak it while sitting behind me in class.”

As in-person great resumed in the fall, Moore and other Carroll plank members sought a compromise. The plank agreed to appoint seven new volunteers come the diversity committee, including some who’d been an essential of the plan, and also asked the team to propose revisions based upon community feedback.

But that job-related was halted after one parent, Kristin Garcia, sued the district over the means the diversity plan was developed, alleging that board members had violated the Texas open up meetings law. Return the ar has discussed that insurance claim in court filings, a judge issued a short-term restraining stimulate in December prohibiting the school board from functioning on the plan while the litigation is pending.

Garcia decreased to comment through her lawyer, and also messages to the Southlake families PAC went unreturned. NBC News got to out come a dozen other occupants who’ve spoken against the diversity plan, however none comment directly. Instead, a team calling itself concerned Parents that Southlake Students got to out to NBC News come share a statement saying the district’s setup “is its own kind of racism the categorizes students based upon their skin shade to purportedly accomplish equitable outcomes.”

“As parental of Southlake students from countless different backgrounds, us condemn discrimination and racism in any form,” the statement said. “We are gravely concerned with do the efforts to med our children’s education and learning with politics indoctrination that seeks to divide fairly than unite.”

With two college board seat coming open in May, the hit is start the next round. The Southlake family members PAC is backing candidates who oppose the diversity plan, consisting of Hannah Smith, a prominent Southlake lawyer who as soon as clerked for can be fried Court judge Clarence Thomas and also Samuel Alito. In an email, Smith claimed she was sick and also could no speak to a reporter this week.

Moore, the college board president, said that back the restraining order stays clear of her from pointing out details the the district’s diversity efforts, she feels upper heart by the way things have actually turned out.

She said she thought around all the stories black color parents shared in 2018 and also 2019 — stories choose the ones Cornish told in ~ the board conference — and said she couldn’t assist but feel like the district was failing the students.

The goal had actually been to no only defend students of shade from discrimination, she said, but to ensure the every student who graduates indigenous Carroll leaves through a an easy understanding of exactly how to function with kindness and also respect in one increasingly varied society.

Instead, Moore said, national politics took over and “things obtained out of hand.”

‘Go back to where you came from’

The struggle in Southlake eventually recorded the attention of state Republican Party officials.

Allen West, the Texas GOP chairman, handle the problem in August as soon as he was invite to speak in ~ a church close to the city. In a video clip of the speech posted to YouTube, West told the audience the the situation in Southlake adheres to a sample of school districts attempting to indoctrinate children with liberal values.

West, that is Black, then readily available a ide for exactly how to struggle back. The told the audience come welcome new residents from out of state with a pecan pie, yet then come ask, “Now why room you here?”

And if those brand-new neighbors don"t share traditional conservative beliefs around gun rights and also tax policy, West advised the audience come respond with 7 words: “Go back to wherein you come from.”

Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, seen here at trump Tower in 2016, motivated Southlake inhabitants to struggle "liberal indoctrination" at their schools.Kevin Hagen / Getty pictures file

With that, the room of largely white Southlake residents, consisting of City Councilman and also mayoral candidate john Huffman, jumped to your feet in applause, the video clip shows. Huffman, who has opposed the ar diversity setup on social media, did not return message seeking comment.

West finished his remarks by urging the crowd to proceed the fight come “run these progressive socialists the hell the end of Texas,” and also was again offered a stand ovation.

In an interview with NBC News soon after the speech, West — that later argued that states like Texas should type their own union after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn president Joe Biden’s election victory — said he was proud the the citizens of Southlake for pushing back the “threats indigenous Black resides Matter.” He quote the fight over the diversity plan as proof that republicans remained an effective in the fast-changing Texas suburbs.

Despite the acrimony the the past six months, numerous Southlake parental who aided craft the district’s diversity arrangement said lock haven’t given up on your city. A team of the plan’s pendant — many of them white — have created their very own advocacy group, Dignity for all Texas Students. Maryland, the ex-Cowboys lineman, said he plan to keep fighting to make Carroll welcoming for all students.

“It"s my neighborhood too,” said Maryland, whose own children have because graduated. “I"m not going anywhere.”

At a college board conference last month, the freshly appointed superintendent of the Carroll Independent school District, lane Ledbetter, claimed that solving the conflict would be his administration"s No. 1 priority in 2021, and he promised to lug all sides with each other to gain it done.

“The much longer we have the department in the community, the much longer it"s walk to take it to acquire past this,” stated Ledbetter, a white Carroll graduate. “I don"t desire this to be the reputation of Carroll ISD. I desire the call of Carroll ISD to be excellence.”

To Robin Cornish, those remarks sound a bit like the old days, earlier before the viral video clip forced daunting conversations around race and also privilege out right into the open.

Cornish has begun to rethink her decision come raise her kids in Southlake.Nitashia Johnson / for NBC News

She thought back to the countless hours her husband spent volunteering in Southlake. All the but on the weekend he sacrificed so he could mentor children on a football ar or a basketball court. The city had even named a park after him, right in the center of Southlake city Square.

Then Cornish psychic what she discovered in 2017, once she lugged some out-of-town family members members to check out the memorial at Frank Edgar Cornish IV Park. Top top the bronze plaque, right below her husband’s name, who had sculpted an ominous threat: “KKK will gain you black color people.”

Just children being kids, who assured she afterward. The vandal, that was never ever caught, more than likely didn’t even realize Frank to be Black, another Southlake resident suggested. Probably just someone from the end of town.

A memorial for Frank Cornish to be defaced in 2017 v the indigenous "KKK will get you black people."Courtesy the Robin Cornish

“Anything they might come up with to overlook the problem,” stated Cornish, that has due to the fact that moved 10 mile away, to ft Worth. “Now we’re law it all over again. Denial.”

Maybe she’d remained in denial, too, she thought. And also now it to be time to reckon through her own decisions.

Last month, Cornish acquired her five youngsters together top top a video clip chat. She began to cry, then claimed she needed to tell castle something that had been gnawing at her for months.

She’d just wanted what was ideal for them. And also for years, she’d assumed that meant keeping them at Carroll — v its gleaming facilities and its slate of progressed Placement courses. Cornish currently believes the was a mistake.

“I desire to phone call you exactly how very, really sorry i am,” she remembers telling her children. “I to apologize that ns did no take friend all the end of Southlake Carroll schools.”

Her children told her not to cry. They will do each come to terms with their time at Carroll and refused come let it specify them. Yet their indigenous did small to ease her guilt.

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“I"m her mother, and also I am supposed to defend you. And I failed you.”

Until miscellaneous changes, it is the Carroll tradition, Cornish said. A top-tier public school district — however not fairly for everyone.