A North Texas school district is charging parents high prices for public information about a controversial plan that will affect their children. Local governments can decide whether or not to charge for such information, and this school district chose to hide behind high prices instead of being transparent with the taxpaying parents they serve.

Last month, parents in Carroll Independent School District expressed outrage over a controversial Cultural Competence Action Plan, which would pit students against each other by tracking those accused of committing “microaggressions” and acts of discrimination.

The plan has no appeals process for students the school deems “inappropriate,” nor does it appear that accused students would be considered innocent until proven guilty. CCAP would also establish an LGBTQ+ student focus group for grades 9-12.

One parent recently described the plan as “socialist,” and citizens across Southlake confronted the school board, demanding the plan be defeated.

Multiple parents have complained about not being involved in the process and were surprised to learn of the plan shortly before the board was to vote on it.

At least two parents have sent open records requests to the district for information relating to CCAP. Open records requests exist under Texas’ Public Information Act, which “provides a mechanism for citizens to inspect or copy government records. It also provides that governmental bodies may withhold government records from the public in specific instances.”

One parent, Mitch Stacy, asked for all communications about CCAP between board members and administrative staff involved in its development, as well as communications with the Southlake Anti-Racist Coalition, which has been pushing for the plan.

Similarly, local parent Kristen Hughes asked for all communications that Assistant Superintendents Barbara Yelton and Julie Thannum have had about CCAP, as well as any references to or correspondence with SARC.

The district has given Stacy a cost estimate of $592 for his open records request and an estimate of $870 for Hughes’.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Hughes said. “$870 for somebody to make copies? To do some screenshots?”

“I think it’s highly inappropriate,” Stacy told Texas Scorecard. “I asked for the opportunity to come and see it, inspect the requested documents, and decide what I’d like copies of.” Assistant Superintendent Julie Thannum replied, asking for a 50 percent deposit upfront.

“We pay so much in taxes,” Hughes said. “This is ridiculous.” Data from the Tarrant Appraisal District shows that from 2013 to 2019, the Carroll ISD board increased the average homeowner’s property tax bill over 34 percent—from $6,693 to $9,029.

“There are some administrators, including Mrs. Thannum, whom I am communicating with on this … I think she’s trying to do everything in her power to make this as difficult as she can,” Stacy said. “They’re not only not being open and transparent, they’re being the exact opposite.”

“They’re hiding something,” Hughes added.

As aspects of the approved 2018 plan are being implemented, the rest of the plan’s details remain to be decided, as the school searches for a new superintendent.

None of the board members responded to inquiries from Texas Scorecard about the charges for these open records requests.

Texas Scorecard has also been given cost estimates for open records requests to Carroll ISD involving CCAP, one for $350 and another for $306.

A copy of the cost estimate for Hughes can be found here. A copy of the estimate given to Stacy can be found here.

Citizens concerned about the lack of transparency from Carroll ISD may contact members of the school board, their state representative, state senator, and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Carroll ISD school board:

Michelle Moore: michelle.moore@southlakecarroll.edu
Todd Carlton: todd.carlton@southlakecarroll.edu
David Almand: david.almand@southlakecarroll.edu
Danny Gilpin: danny.gilpin@southlakecarroll.edu
Eric Lannen: eric.lannen@southlakecarroll.edu
Sheri Mills: sheri.mills@southlakecarroll.edu
Matt Bryant: matt.bryant@southlakecarroll.edu

This article has been updated since publication.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.