Anonymous Instagram account brings to light alleged racist incidents in Eanes, prompts action from district

“Being Black at Westlake High School was exhausting.” 

Remembered by an alum who graduated in 2015. 

“All Indian names sound the same. I’m not being racist, it’s true.” 

Remarked by a teacher who confused the names of students of Indian descent.  

“We’re rich, we’re white, we’re Westlake!” 

Chanted at football games. 

These are some of the stories submitted by anonymous individuals on the Instagram account @racismatwestlake. The account, created June 22, has been sharing alleged occurrences of racism in Eanes in the wake of national movements against racism. After the death of George Floyd while in police custody May 25, protests against police brutality erupted in Minneapolis and soon spread across the U.S. to more than 400 cities in all 50 states. The intensity of these protests sparked communities, including Eanes ISD, to reflect on their own complicity in a racist system, which prompted the circulation of these alleged experiences.

“It’s difficult to read through these stories, especially the ones from current students, parents and staff,” said the account owners, who wish to remain anonymous. “The sheer amount of stories and the age range of submissions is shocking. It shows that racism at Eanes is not just an isolated incident; it’s being perpetrated and condoned by students, families, teachers and administrators alike, and it’s happening everywhere — in elementary school, in high school, in choir, in football, in history class, in math class, at lunch, after school and so much more that we can’t even name them all. It’s overwhelming.”

The account owners didn’t respond to questions about how they verified the submissions, and The Featherduster staff was not able to fact check accounts due to the anonymous nature. However, the owners did say they prioritize sharing the experiences submitted by people of color.

“We want students of color to know that they are not alone and that we will continue to share their stories until the district actually does something about it,” the owners said. “We’re glad there’s a national conversation happening, and clearly a great deal needs to change in our district. We love Westlake; we’ve attended the district K-12; we’ve lived and breathed Westlake. We know we can do better, and so we are determined to help clean up this mess in our house.”

The ultimate goal for the owners is an anti-racist culture and community in Westlake. Along with CARES, Eanes for Equity and various members of the Eanes community, they are advocating for the district to hire a DEI consultant to begin a racial equity audit this school year, to create reporting guidelines and procedures and to implement anti-bias teacher training.

Since the initial circulation of racist stories in Eanes shared through School Board Open Forums and @racismatwestlake, the district has developed a responsive plan. During the Board of Trustees meeting July 21, Senior Advisor Linda Rawlings discussed this plan in a presentation titled “Building a Community of Trust Through Developing Racial Awareness.”

“We are recommending that we hire a DEI [Diversity, Inclusion and Equity] facilitator consultant to help us lead the work,” Rawlings said. “We feel it’s important to have an expert who helps us do that. [We also want] to determine where our staff and students are in terms of racial awareness; in other words, to conduct a Needs Assessment for the district that helps us have a better understanding of that. We are committed to providing staff development in this area. We want to establish campus-based groups that will keep that work going beyond just this year. We don’t see this as a one-and-done; we see this as a long-term effort to really work on this and improve how we’re doing in this area. We want to work with a Community Advisory Group with a variety of stakeholders who bring different views to the table.”

During this meeting, the Board voted to hire Dr. Mark Gooden as a DEI consultant for the 2020-21 school year. 

“Dr. Gooden will lead the process to enhance community, staff and student racial awareness and to cultivate an environment of understanding unique similarities and differences,” according to the district website. “Under Dr. Gooden’s guidance, the district will address social justice and racism in Eanes ISD as well as shape staff professional development plans throughout the school year. The district will also explore ideas around the selection of a community advisory group to help guide the district’s efforts.”

Student Body vice president senior Audrey Lingan said she is glad the district is taking action. 

“I am so happy that our school is taking the situation seriously and creating a solution that is long-lasting,” Audrey said. “At the end of this, Westlake is going to be stronger.”

Even though she doesn’t follow @racismatwestlake on Instagram, she said she appreciates the progress it brings. 

“[It’s] about time,” Audrey said. “I am biracial and have dealt with some racist comments. In no way are they as severe as what many of our students are enduring, but there is an issue at Westlake. I am so happy progress is being made and there is work being done to change the stigma around race at this school. I believe our school — our students — are in a unique position to be a catalyst for good in this issue.”

According to the founders of another organization called Westlake Student Activism — formed June 7 by sophomores Reese Hutson, Kaveri Kotagiri, Anastasia Keeler and Rose Ray and senior Emma Guan to provide an outlet to discuss social issues — racism is a rampant issue in Eanes in part because of the lack of diversity in the district. 

“Many Westlake families never leave the district, raising their children with the same values and beliefs that they were taught growing up in an all-white school,” the founders wrote. “This leads to students not understanding fully what their racist actions mean or the full impact of the things that they say. Students see no repercussions for their actions and never face any punishment, which makes younger students see no issue with them and continue the trend.” 

Many community members have also voiced concerns about the lack of racial diversity in the Eanes curriculum. AP World History teacher Leah Pagano shared her thoughts on this issue, specifically in history courses. 

“With regard to history curriculum, in EISD we teach the state standards, or TEKS, or follow College Board’s learning objectives for AP courses,” Pagano said. “A major challenge in world history courses is that the scope and sequence is so immense, which unfortunately may result in the simplification of the deep complex narratives of various groups to ‘cover’ required content. I do think the College Board curriculum has become much more inclusive in the illustrative examples provided to exemplify a learning objective, which are not so Eurocentric and aims to share a more diverse history of the world.”

Furthermore, she said she believes the curriculum can be improved by adding a variety of teaching materials to deepen students’ understanding of different peoples and cultures. 

“With a stronger integration of primary sources, teachers can promote more culturally responsive teaching by providing opportunities to learn from various peoples in their own words,” Pagano said. “This would require teachers to foster an anti-racist mindset to ensure that analysis of these materials does not reinforce or perpetuate racist or discriminatory assumptions or stereotypes. It is the responsibility of educators to be aware of how privilege, race and systematic oppression factor into the experiences of the students we teach and the history we teach about, and that is another layer of education we must continue to invest in, in addition to deepening our understanding of a vast curriculum.” 

The owners of @racismatwestlake initially created the account because they believed Eanes could do more to address racism within the district. 

“As a district, we love to talk about how excellent we are, but clearly we’ve been subpar in addressing racism, so why isn’t anything happening to fix this?” the owners said. “How can we be excellent when our students of color don’t feel heard or empowered? It feels lazy and irresponsible to not address such a glaring issue that affects every student and every family in the district. We have smart and capable and influential people within the district who have glossed over this issue for far too long.”

The advocacy group Chaps for an Anti-Racist Eanes was formed by alumnae and sisters Danielle and Michelle Suh in June to encourage anti-racism in Eanes. Some of their key requests — which were sent to district officials in a letter signed by more than 800 people —  include hiring a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant, disseminating anti-racism resources and diversifying the curriculum. Pushing for accountability and change, the organization invited students, families and alumni to submit personal stories of racism to the school board for the Open Forum at the June 9 Study Session. Despite the submission of more than 100 stories, the response from the district after that meeting was minimal, which frustrated the owners of @racismatwestlake. 

“This account shows that clearly not enough has changed,” they said. “It’s difficult to realize our complicity within a racist system, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not our job to fix it. Although we’re mostly highlighting recent stories to combat the district’s narrative that racism in Eanes is an issue of the past, it’s important to note that racism has been hurting people since the inception of the district. This problem has existed for a long time and has historically been unaddressed. That’s not OK and must change.”

The owners of @racismatwestlake receive stories mostly from current students and alumni. People can submit stories to the form linked in their Instagram bio (, as well as through DM. 

“We filter content in a few key ways,” the owners said. “We first ensure that these stories center on the experiences of people of color. This is the most important. Our schools are majority white, our teachers are majority white and our curriculum is majority white. So this account is a way for us to give a voice to people we haven’t been listening to and for white people in our community to begin to understand the impact that racism has on real people. We also look for themes in the stories so that people can understand how racism in Eanes isn’t a single isolated incident but rather a rampant and widespread issue.”

For the owners of the account, as well as the followers, sharing and reading these stories has brought to attention the previous shortcomings of the district when it comes to dealing with issues like racism.

“Why do students have to turn to an Instagram account to share their stories?” the owners said. “Can students safely tell staff, and can they be sure that they will be heard and that something will be done to protect them? It’s unacceptable that students don’t know where to go when something happens and deplorable that often nothing is done to repair the individual and the community. The administration needs to do some serious restorative training in order to earn back the trust of their student body and community.”

The founders of Westlake Student Activism also believe the district needs to do more to not only discipline students for racist actions, but also take preventative measures to ensure that students and teachers are aware of their behavior. 

“The district needs to be more proactive and sincere in their actions, especially the ones that they take after instances of racism occur,” the founders wrote. “In a response to a video of recent graduates saying a racial slur, [Eanes ISD trustees, administration and principals] sent an email [saying] that they do not condone those actions, which is ironic because those same issues still happen. These [statements] need to be followed with plans and measures to prevent these from happening in the future.” 

While the owners and followers of @racismatwestlake have called for the district to acknowledge these alleged stories, principal Steve Ramsey explained the district does not respond directly and publicly through social media because they care for the confidentiality and dignity of students and staff.

“When students come to teachers, counselors and administrators with concerns of racism, we must support them immediately, appropriately and professionally,” Ramsey said. “From reading the page [@racismatwestlake], however, this looks like an area where we can improve according to the students’ perspective, which is their reality. Students need to be heard, we will listen, and our response should be fair and consistent.”

According to the district website, in the 2018-19 school year, more than 65% of enrolled students were white. Because of the predominately white demographic in Eanes, the owners of @racismatwestlake hope to reach white students. 

“We are pushing for white students — and any white person reading the account — to learn how to intervene, be actively anti-racist and use their privilege and power for good,” the owners said. 

Though they post personal experiences, facts and statistics on Instagram, the owners of @racismatwestlake also stress the importance of finding other ways to learn about racism.

“If you are white, you need to do the research to understand how white people benefit from the racist systems currently in place,” the owners said. “This education can look like reading books or articles, listening to podcasts and attending virtual webinars. These resources are everywhere right now, but you can Google to get started. White people need to get more comfortable talking about race because we have ignored this conversation for too long in our community, and as a result, we are part of the problem.”

However, meaningful action doesn’t stop there.

“As these stories show, this is a lived reality for current and former students, families and staff,” the owners said. “[White people] must also do the work to dismantle racism in our education system. They can do this in everyday conversations by creating space for BIPOC’s [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] experiences and ideas to be lifted up; they can call out racism when they hear it; they can look at how their own groups operate and see if they build a space that is safe and welcoming for BIPOC to share their opinions.” 

In all, the owners of @racismatwestlake hope to help the community see that change and action are needed in Eanes and beyond. 

“It is definitely sad to read about these experiences, and we hope people can recognize that it is even more horrible to experience them personally,” they said. “When we know better, we can do better. We hope everyone takes these stories as a call to action to learn how to not only intervene if racism is happening, but also be actively anti-racist to preemptively solve some of these issues before they arise. We hope this account allows our community to learn from each other and see that racism was not ‘solved’ by the Civil Rights era, but continues to harm our community right here and right now.” 

The owners of the account are not the only ones who believe change is needed. In response to the stories posted by @racismatwestlake, Audrey would like to see action against racism in the district.

“We need to stop reinforcing racial stereotypes,” Audrey said. “Our community is predominantly caucasian and Asian American. There are so many stigmas that nonwhite students deal with, and our school as a whole must work to eliminate them. [Making] race jokes or devaluing a student’s success because of their race needs to end.”  

The founders of Westlake Student Activism also support the work of @racismatwestlake. 

“We are not affiliated with, and do not know who runs the @racismatwestlake account, but their mission and work is phenomenal,” they wrote. “They are bringing to light experiences of people of color in the school district, as well as highlighting the structural problems with our community. They do the work of highlighting experiences, bringing a platform and providing resources for education as well.”

Ramsey said the account gives students a voice as they advocate for change in the district.

“We have read their stories, and we are saddened and dismayed by the interactions they describe with fellow students, teachers, coaches, counselors and administrators,” Ramsey said. “Clearly, we have work to do; we must put in the effort to make students feel safe and respected in elementary, middle and high school. We will work together as a campus, district and community to ensure improvements as we address racism and social injustice.” 

The account @racismatwestlake will continue to post ways for people to take action, and they encourage those interested to follow the link in the submission form to join the Chaps for an Anti-Racist Eanes campaign to learn how to get involved.

“Recently, BLM co-founders are quoted as saying that these protesters right now want accountability,” the owners said. “That’s exactly what we want. We want the district and administration to take accountability for the pervasive racism that exists on our EISD campuses. We want them to acknowledge that all of this happened on their watch, that they have failed to protect our students and families of color, and that they need to educate our white students to do better. But words are not enough — we need action. The district must take meaningful action to address the ways that racism manifests in the curriculum, the culture and the conversations in EISD.”

Follow @racismatwestlake on Instagram for personal accounts of racism from students, alumni and families in Westlake and Eanes.  

Follow @westlakestudentactivism on Instagram for educational and helpful resources to learn more about social issues like racism. 

Follow @chapsforanantiracisteanes on Instagram for information about how to get involved with anti-racism movements in Eanes. 

Click here to view the presentation “Building a Community of Trust Through Racial Awareness” to read more about the district’s responsive plan. 

Click here for resources pushed out by the district to help start conversations about racism with children.