A principal in Red Rock, Texas is on administrative leave following numerous allegations of racist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist discrimination.
Veronica Coss has been the principal at Early College High School, in Round Rock, Texas, since February of last year, and before that was the assistant principal. But until Monday, parents and former staff members say the school district refused to do anything about the alleged abusive situation, despite saying they filed complaints.
Evelyn Nevarez was Coss’ secretary before resigning earlier this year. She tells NewNowNext she was both witness to and on the receiving end of much of her abuse.
She says Coss made comments like, “Black people have a chip on their shoulder. We don’t want those issues here,” and called a black teacher “a prime example” of a “lazy culture.” Nevarez says Coss also referred to students with mental health concerns as “basket cases.”
Additionally, she alleges Coss had staff members follow a lesbian couple to the bathroom for fear they would have sex, and that a male transgender student was made to use the women’s restroom in the office.
Nevarez tells NewNowNext she filed a complaint in April, outlining the racist statements, as well as what she believed to be an unwillingness to properly process students’ 504 accommodations, which allow for different learning environments for those with special needs. But she says nothing was done and that she was not even contacted until three weeks ago, well after she had already resigned.
Following her report, she says Coss subjected her to retaliatory behavior, and that she overheard her in the office making fun of how she dressed, the car she drove, and calling her “the leech.” She says she heard recently that Coss was now calling her “the stinky rat.”
“I sat in the office and just cried,” she recalls.
Finally, she couldn’t take the situation any longer and she quit, again outlining the discriminatory and abusive behavior in her resignation letter.
She says she doesn’t believe the school board ever saw her complaint or resignation letter until she took it upon herself to send it to them directly.
“My understanding is once they saw it, they were just like, ‘What? How did we not know about this?’” she says.
“My resignation, I believe, gave them peace. Had [teacher Stephanie Martin] not gone to the board, they would have put this under the rug. Nothing would have been done,” she adds. “It took the video going viral, and me posting my story [for something to happen].”
Martin is another former staffer who resigned, after filing a report and saying nothing was done, leaving back in May of this year. She spoke at a school board meeting late last month, a video of which Nevarez posted to Facebook. At time of writing it has 14,000 views.
“Out of a staff of 16, I was one of four who left,” she said.
She then described an incident where Coss, at a community meeting, yelled at kids and parents, “dismissing their concerns.” She said Coss later remarked that she would like to “smack that black bitch” about a teacher who had raised a concern at the meeting.
Martin also alleged the principal questioned a request to take students to the historically black university Prairie View A&M University, asking, “Why would you want to take them to that nasty place?”
She added that in her first year, a colleague shared she frequently heard Coss refer to a black employee by a racial slur. Martin continued, saying she had personally heard Coss say, “Immigrant parents don’t teach their kids how to behave.”
She said Coss also told staff members who might be gay not to put anything about it on social media, or else they wouldn’t be protected. Further, she told the school board students were not being given access to special education teachers and appropriate accommodations, and that transgender students were complaining of being deadnamed.
Martin also referenced Nevarez’s complaint, saying school officials interviewed the staff listed in it as having been subjected to harassment except for Martin herself.
“They came back feeling gaslighted and intimidated,” she said.
Two parents, JoLynn Bartlett and Andrea Justman, spoke with KVUE, telling a reporter that their children’s 504 accommodations were being ignored, and that they had given up until they saw Martin’s statement before the school board.
The school district has released the following statement:
As a school district, it is our goal to provide a safe and supportive environment for all students. Round Rock ISD does not and will not tolerate any form of discrimination in our classrooms, schools and facilities. As this is a personnel issue, and an ongoing investigation, we do not comment on specific details. What we can share, is that in accordance with our practices, for the protection of all those involved we place employees on leave when appropriate to complete the investigation. We take all reports of discrimination seriously. When we receive reports regarding our employees, we conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation, which includes speaking to witnesses who are available and willing to participate. If evidence supports allegations, we will take appropriate action.