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A&M Investigating After Black High Schoolers Harassed on Campus

Texas A&M University is conducting an investigation after students visiting campus from a Dallas high school were harassed Tuesday with racial slurs.

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment.

Texas A&M University is conducting an investigation after a group of students visiting campus from an inner-city Dallas high school were harassed Tuesday with racial slurs and a demand to "go back where you came from."

About 60 juniors from Uplift Hampton Preparatory were touring the campus, according to state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, when two black students were approached by a white woman wearing Confederate flag earrings. West said the white woman showed the students her earrings and asked them what they thought about them. Then a group of "white male and female students" began taunting the students "using the most well-known racial slur that's directed toward African Americans," said West, whose district includes the Uplift Hampton Preparatory campus

West wasn't there when the incident occurred, but he said he was briefed on it later by A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. A spokeswoman for Uplift Education, which operates the charter school, said West's description was accurate. 

A&M staffers who were accompanying the students on the tour called campus police. No one was charged; the responding officer told people at the scene that the harassers were expressing their First Amendment rights, according to West. University officials are now reviewing the incident, West said.

Soon after, A&M President Michael Young sent out a campus-wide e-mail saying he was outraged by the event.

"I deeply regret the pain and hurt feelings this incident caused these young students. Be assured that we take such allegations very seriously," Young wrote.

Young said administrators and students from A&M met with the high school students and told them that the vast majority of Aggies would welcome them to campus. The students continued their tour and returned home to Dallas that evening. 

"This troubling incident will be thoroughly investigated to the fullest extent possible and appropriate action will be taken," the e-mail said. 

West, meanwhile, called for the A&M students involved in the taunting to be "strongly disciplined, if not expelled."

"I call on Texas A&M officials to drive their decision to a destination which says that the halls of higher education are open to any student who is willing to rise to the challenge of earning a college degree," West said. 

Uplift Hampton school officials said Thursday that they were disappointed by the incident. The charter school is devoted to helping economically disadvantaged students get into college. Many come from families with no experience in higher education, and campus tours are their first encounters with universities. 

The school said it was appreciative of how A&M responded. Students regularly visit A&M, and Uplift officials said that won't change. A group of students from another Uplift campus visited the campus Thursday. 

"We are proud of our scholars for the grace and composure with which they responded to the college students who chose to engage in a disrespectful and unacceptable manner," said CEO Yasmin Bhatia, in a statement.  

Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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