MONROE — A student who was the target of racist slurs and an alleged threat of violence has been staying at a hotel since the incident Nov. 10 at Monroe High School.
He hasn’t gone back to school.
And the family might leave the city.
Monroe police continued to investigate the episode as a possible hate crime this week, Cmdr. Paul Ryan said.
In an interview with The Daily Herald, the boy and his mother gave a fuller account of what happened in the school parking lot just before lunch that Wednesday.
The Black student at Monroe High said he was trying to stop two white students from bullying his friend when the confrontation began. He said he wasn’t trying to start a fight, but “cancel out the drama.”
A video shows one of the white students repeatedly using a racial slur. At one point, she hits the Black student in the head with a plastic water bottle. Later, the same white student says she’s on the phone with her father, according to the video. She appears to repeat something the father said.
“You got something metal in the car? Smack the (expletive) in his mouth,” the white student says on video.
She also appears at one point to take a picture of the Black student with her phone.
Eventually, the white students drive away, the video shows.
At some point, the Black student called his mom, shaken from the confrontation. Upset, she drove to the school.
In that moment, the mother said, “I’m crying and I’m emotional because a hate crime was happening to him.”
The mother and son noted this isn’t the first time he has been subjected to racism in the school district. He said other students sometime make jokes at his expense using racist stereotypes.
They now don’t trust the district leadership to adequately address the racism he has faced there.
“This is a continual track record,” she said. “I definitely don’t feel safe here anymore.”
The district is working on new equity initiatives in light of last week’s incident, spokesperson Tamara Krache said. She added that Superintendent Justin Blasko will soon share more information with families. The school held an assembly last week to discuss racial sensitivity.
The mother decided to leave the family’s home and stay elsewhere with her son and his two younger siblings, who are also students in the district. They’ve gotten financial help from local organizations, but it won’t last forever.
She said she’s planning to move her three children out of the district because of the incident.
“These students that were in this, and the students that have watched this, and the assemblies they’ve had to go through, and the meetings they have to go to, this is never going to leave them,” said Zoe Yates, one of the founders of Monroe Inclusion Collective who recently graduated from the school. “It sticks with them and they should never have to go through it. It should never have happened. It’s a preventable incident.”
For legal reasons, the district cannot share any disciplinary action taken against students, Krache noted in an email. She added, however, the district can say “violations of Monroe School District’s policies related to discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying are taken very seriously and handled in alignment with student discipline policies and procedures.”
A survey conducted by the student-led collective found a majority of respondents experienced racism in the district. Most of those students didn’t report it to school leaders, citing a lack of trust in staff and not enough representation in leadership. Those who did report incidents often said they felt unsafe after doing so.
Nathan Duong, another co-founder of the collective who has graduated, said the group expected negative results, but “what we gathered was beyond our expectations a bit.”
Yates, who is Black, said the collective was disappointed, but not shocked.
The students presented their findings to the school board in January. Their presentation included steps the district could take to improve conditions for students of color: more safe spaces and resources for students dealing with discrimination, increased inclusion training for staff and changes in curriculum to better reflect diversity.
In June 2020, a school board member resigned after a video surfaced of his daughter using a racial slur. That incident sparked the creation of the Monroe collective.
“We were the ones that were ready to see the change,” Yates said. “And we knew that nothing would be done and nothing could be moved forward unless there was a student initiative.”
The boy targeted in last week’s incident said he has friends at the school and wants to graduate, but after this he’s not sure he can go on there.
“People need to know,” the mother said. “They need to be forced to change. The time is now.”