A shaky nine-second video taken at a sleepover shows a 13-year-old Black teen in pajamas. A White teen that he thought was his friend tilts a Starbucks cup full of dark yellow liquid to his lips. In the background, other kids laugh.
According to the GoFundMe page, the Black teen, whose name we're withholding due to his age, had been bullied by his own football teammates at Haggard, and it became so bad that he had no choice but to eventually quit the team. The allegations include taking his inhaler, beating him with a belt in a school locker room, calling him racial slurs, shooting him with BB guns, and forcing him to drink urine.
The Black teen's mother alleged in a Facebook post that it became so bad, that he was afraid to go to school because of the Haggard Middle School football players "turning on [him] and targeting [him]."
Now Plano police are investigating.
At a protest in the Black teen's name, a family member, Taler, who did not go on record with her full name, told supporters that the family believed that the sleepover was an attempt to end the bullying. But she describes the sleepover as a "set up."
The family reported the incident to Plano ISD on March 2. A couple of days later, a small group of local mothers and Plano residents rallied in front of Haggard Middle School to demand that PISD take appropriate action.
Kim T. Cole, an attorney for his family, told Dallas Morning News that this incident was not the first time the Black teen had been bullied, nor was it the first time his family tried to tell the school.
“In my opinion, not only did they torture this kid, but they filmed it and were proud of it and shared it on multiple social media sites making fun of him,” she said.
About 20 people gathered on the sidewalk outside Haggard Middle School at 3 p.m., 30 minutes before school let out. Most were mothers of Haggard students, past or present, concerned for the safety of their children as well as the student who has been targeted. Police officers were present, if only to ensure everyone’s safety, and enforced the school’s request that protesters confine themselves to the sidewalks, not school grounds. News outlets parked themselves across the street to film the protesters chanting. Some of the protesters made signs.
“If it was my kid, I would have them arrested for assault,” one protester said.
They also discussed the petition that they have all signed and circulated on Change.org. More than 12,000 family, friends, and Haggard alumni signed in one day. “Imagine your classmates and football team members turning on you and targeting you,” the petition reads. “Imagine a group of those same football team members attacking you in the locker-room with a belt... Imagine being hit in the private area and when you tell an adult you are told ‘boys will be boys.’”
Most protesters simply wanted more information, and to know what can be done. They also have questions about who at the school knew what was happening. In particular, they wonder what Haggard’s coach and Physical Education teacher, Gregg Dupree, knew. At least one incident seems to have happened in Haggard’s boys’ locker room.
Dupree couldn't be reached for comment.
As 3:30 hit, cars crawled by and students rushed out of class. Some drivers honked to show support as the protesters chanted, “When I say no, you say bullies,” or “no justice, no peace.” Behind them, students played on the grass where the football team practices after school. A couple of passersby approached to ask what’s going on.
“I have a son here,” said one man, who was simply walking by. “I had no idea.”
According to the petition and the student’s family, the school initially said they couldn’t act because “the incidents didn’t all take place on campus.”
In a media statement, PISD confirmed that as of March 2, they are aware and they are investigating.
“The Plano ISD administration is aware of recent bullying allegations, and is working with the campus and local law enforcement to actively investigate the matter,” Lesley Range-Stanton, a communications official for the district, wrote. “Our district does not tolerate or condone bullying or harassing behavior, and is taking prompt and remedial action to address concerns.
“Campus leaders and counselors have been working closely and carefully with all involved students and their parents since the concerns regarding a non-school-related, off-campus incident first reported on Tuesday, March 2. While we cannot discuss intervention or disciplinary measures as it relates to a specific student or students, our response to any behavioral concern is always in accordance with district policy and the Plano ISD Student Code of Conduct.”
Plano police are also investigating. The boy's family plans to move him to private school.
Bullying is not a new problem for any school. In fact, a 2020 study on cyberbullying found that 49.8% of children aged 9 to 12 experienced bullying at school. Furthermore, 14.5% of tweens shared they experienced bullying online. Bullying of any form affects a child’s entire life, and increases a child’s risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school.
Plano parents are now calling for clarity in the matter, and a clear, swift response from the district in cases of bullying. The student's family is leading the charge. They want the students responsible to face punishment, possibly expulsion.
As one concerned mother pointed out, “I need to know they’re gone. I have a child here too.”
On March 5 at 6:30 p.m., the family will speak at the Plano Police Department.
Local Profile contacted Haggard Middle School Principal Lisa Washington and Coach Gregg Dupree, but did not receive a response.