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A&M Student Involved in Racist Incident No Longer On Campus

One of the Texas A&M students involved in the harassment of a group of minority high school students touring campus last month "is no longer associated with" the university, President Michael Young announced.

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

A Texas A&M student involved in the harassment of a group of minority high school students touring campus last month "is no longer associated with" the university, President Michael Young announced Wednesday. 

But university officials said no one will face criminal charges related to the ordeal, during which students from Uplift Hampton Preparatory in Dallas were called racial slurs and told to "go back where you came from."

Those decisions were announced simultaneously just over three weeks after the incident occurred. The university said it conducted two simultaneous investigations — one by campus police and the other by the dean of the office of student life. Citing federal student privacy laws, campus officials said they couldn't release details of the investigations. But they said they turned over details to the Brazos County District Attorney's Office, which declined to pursue charges. 

"The law does not permit us to publicly disclose information associated with the Dean of Student Life investigation other than to say that one of the many students interviewed is no longer associated with Texas A&M University," Young said in a letter to the campus community. "The case has concluded. However, if additional information comes to our attention we will further investigate and take any appropriate action."

Also on Wednesday, the university responded to an open records request submitted by the Texas Tribune for investigation reports related to the incident and copies of taped interviews with people who had complained about it. The heavily redacted documents and edited videos shine some light on what happened to the high schoolers. 

An investigation report conducted by university police lists three separate incidents that happened over about five minutes. In the first, a pair of high school students broke away from their tour group to throw a penny in a fountain. They were approached by a female student, who asked them about how they were dressed. They then talked about something the A&M student was wearing. The report doesn't say what, but Uplift officials have said that one of the students who approached them was wearing Confederate flag earrings. 

The two high school students told police that they found the interaction "weird" and "off-putting," but weren't too upset. The A&M student, who was interviewed by investigators, said she "didn't taunt them in any way."

A few minutes later, the group of high schoolers was walking near a dining hall and dormitory when a group of A&M students noticed that one of the high school students was wearing a University of Texas at Austin backpack, according to the police report. A high school counselor said she heard the students say "go back where you came from" and "go to bonfire." (In 1999, a massive bonfire being built by student before A&M's annual football game against the UT-Austin collapsed, killing 12 people. There's a memorial on campus not far from where the students were talking.)

Moments later, in what is described as the third incident, multiple students from the high school reported hearing a female student say "the N-word" several times while they passed. A&M provided a body camera video of police interviewing the group of A&M students sitting at a picnic table afterward. The only female student in the group tells the officers that "I would never do that."

"It could have been a misunderstanding because they were talking and we were talking and I think there might have been music playing, too, I don't remember," said the student, whose face is blurred out in the video. "Maybe they, like, misheard something because it was so loud and there was so many people talking."

The report said that most, if not all, of the high school students who passed the group heard the racial slur, however. 

The incident garnered national attention amid the nationwide discussion about diversity on campus. State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, urged A&M to take swift action. And an anonymous group of black students held a rally on campus urging administrators to create a more inclusive environment on campus. 

Young said he was issuing a "call to action" to review diversity initiatives and to propose new ones in areas including recruitment, retention and curriculum. 

"As your President, I hope I am always open to that which challenges me and makes me uncomfortable, but that I always respond with the essential core value of respect in all that I do," Young wrote. "I hope all of you do so as well and join me in embedding all of the Aggie core values in all that we do.  In this way, we can eliminate fear and lead with hope in an effort to build a nurturing and respectful environment."

Yasmin Bhatia, CEO of the group that runs the Uplift charter schools, said in a statement that she was informed of A&M's actions this morning and that she appreciated university's transparency. She said the incident should remind educators that they need to come together to make sure students feel accepted and supported in college. 

"Moving beyond this incident, we hope the issue of inclusion continues to be a priority for A&M and the other larger higher education institutions in the state, as we unfortunately know this is not an isolated incident on just one campus," she said. 

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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