#cyberbullying | #cyberbully | Plano ISD to offer African American, Mexican American culture classes amid backlash over racist bullying

Two new classes — African American and Mexican American studies — will be offered during the 2021-22 school year to Plano ISD high school seniors.

The African American Studies class will introduce students to the history and culture of African Americans “in a way that helps students make connections to contemporary and current issues that impact the world around them,” according to the district. The Mexican American Studies course will teach students about the history and cultural contributions of Mexican Americans.

Both courses will cover history, culture, the arts and social movements while drawing on film, literature and art to enrich the courses. The classes are one credit and will be offered over two semesters as a social studies elective for high school seniors.

The courses arrive as Plano ISD has been in the national spotlight over allegations that a 13-year-old, who is Black, was bullied and abused by Haggard Middle School students. The teen’s mother, Summer Smith, reported to the school that her son was called racial slurs, beaten and made to drink his white classmates’ urine during a sleepover in February. The students recorded their actions and posted videos to social media, later sharing the clips during school.

Smith said she tried to get help from the district and when that failed, she posted the footage to Facebook with a plea for action, sparking horror in the school community and across the country.

The school district recently concluded its investigation but did not release any findings due to student privacy issues. In a letter to the family, “allegations of bullying and cyberbullying were sustained,” according to Smith’s attorney, Kim T. Cole.

Plano police and an outside firm hired by the district are still conducting separate investigations of the incident. The boy’s family wants it to be considered a hate crime.

The school district has said it will host community meetings to gather feedback on diversity, bullying and harassment issues.

Dallas Morning News Education Lab Reporter Talia Richman contributed to this story.

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