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Plano Schools Bringing in Outside Investigators After Viral Claims of Racist Bullying and Abuse



PLANO, TX – Plano school leaders will hire an outside firm to investigate allegations that a pattern of bullying preceded a recent sleepover during which a Black 13-year-old boy was called racial slurs, beaten and made to drink white classmates’ urine. Superintendent Sara Bonser stood alongside Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere and Police Chief Ed Drain Tuesday afternoon to address the incident that’s enraged and disgusted many in the community and across the country. Summer Smith, the boy’s mother, had met with Bonser earlier in the day. She, her attorney and local activists presented a list of demands that includes: expelling all students involved in the abuse as well as committing that Plano ISD will recognize and dismantle ”systemic racism within the school district” and address past and present bullying incidents.

Bonser pledged that the district was acting swiftly to address the family’s concerns. PISD officials are working with police on an investigation, wrapping up their own probe and hiring a third party to look into the allegations that the boy had been bullied long before the sleepover. “What we saw, what you saw, what we all saw, is inexcusable,” she said, referring to videos and screenshots of the alleged abuse. “It’s our job to do something, together, about this.” Smith posted the videos and images on Facebook, and they quickly went viral. She said she made the videos public because she wasn’t getting the help she needed from the district and officials at Haggard Middle School.

She said administrators initially told her there was nothing they could do because the incident happened off campus—though students circulated the videos during the school day. The horrific claims—including that the boy was invited to the sleepover solely to be “entertainment” for his white classmates—have received national attention. A petition in support of the 13-year-old boy has reached more than 150,000 people, and many have donated to a GoFundMe page to help the family pay for therapy and, potentially, private school tuition. People have protested outside police headquarters and in front of Haggard, carrying signs that read, “Black Lives Matter.”

A local activist urged people to remember that “racism is taught.” Many called upon Bonser to address a culture of bullying that they say extends beyond this one group of students and this one school. Bonser said the district would investigate additional allegations of bullying that people are now emailing to officials. “I want our response to demonstrate the degree of care and concern we feel for this situation—and all incidents of racism or bullying—now, in the past or in the future,” the superintendent said. “If there are weaknesses in our systems or processes, I want to know. I want to know because we must do better when we know.

The Dallas Morning News is not identifying the boy by name or in photos because he is a minor and a victim of bullying. Smith and her attorney are calling for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime. Under state law, there would have to be another crime associated with the incident and the hate crime designation could be used to enhance any penalty. “We are looking at that in regards to this investigation,” Drain said. Because the investigation is continuing, the police chief said, he is not prepared to say what criminal offenses the department might be considering. Detectives must analyze and verify digital evidence and interview more people.

Long before the incident, Smith says, her son quit the football team at Haggard because of bullying. His coach did not take action when the boy raised the issue, Smith alleged, instead saying, “Boys will be boys. Asked if there had been personnel changes at Haggard in light of the allegations, Bonser said the district was “still evaluating all the information we have been presented with.” District officials will have a better sense of what actions to take after the independent investigation is complete, she added. The Police Department also referred the case to the state’s Child Protective Services because of questions regarding adult supervision at the sleepover.

“The CPS referral is to look at whether there were some parents who didn’t do their jobs as parents,” Drain said. Both the family at the center of the case and school district officials said they were receiving violent threats related to the case. Drain said his department was vetting calls and emails and would take action if anyone making a threat is local and appears to pose an imminent danger. Smith’s family had to leave their Plano home out of fear for their safety, said Kim T. Cole, their attorney. Someone left a watermelon on their front porch, she said, and everyone in the family needs counseling to get through this. “I am not OK,” Smith said. “Not by a long shot.”