The Assistant Principal of my son’s school called to tell me and my husband that our son had received a three-day out-of-school suspension for fighting. They told me he had started the fight.
At first we understood that there had to be a punishment. We don’t tolerate that kind of behavior from our children, and we wanted our son to understand that fighting is absolutely unacceptable. But then friends started calling us to express sympathy because they heard from their kids that our son had been called the “n” word by a white student in his class, and this was the reason for the fight. Our son hadn’t told us because he said he thought it did not matter since his Assistant Principal did not document his statements in the report of the incident.
I called the Assistant Principal, and he admitted he had known that part of the story, but the student had said he didn’t know the word was wrong to use, so he only received one day of in-school suspension!
Around the same time, our nine-year-old daughter had experienced an event in her classroom that was similar to my son. During classroom reading time a student verbally attacked her and two other children of color, by stating “white people are better than black people.” This incident really hurt her. She said she “understood how Rosa Parks felt.” It hurt all of us to think that this was 2016, and yet we were still facing this ugliness.
I went back to the schools and talked with administrators about whether they believe it is acceptable for children to be called these names. They said that the student handbook states clearly that they don’t tolerate discrimination and bullying of this kind. We asked them to send a letter to parents about it. We asked them to please educate parents and children and make sure they understand that these words will not be allowed in school.
After administrators refused to send out a communication to parents at the middle school, Virginia Organizing stepped in to support our family by standing with me in addressing the Montgomery County Public School Board. We asked that they make a public statement that affirms their commitment as a school system to inclusion, diversity, and anti-discrimination values and policies. We even provided them with a model from another Virginia Organizing chapter and asked them to adapt it to the Montgomery County Public Schools. So far they have not done what we’ve asked, but we don’t intend to give up.
Thank you for the support you give Virginia Organizing,