School districts in New Jersey and Arizona didn’t bother to talk with parents when their children were targets of racist harassment by other students. Officials insisted the situations were under control and ignored the safety concerns of the parents.
Racist bullying—which is not limited to schools but also found in workplaces—can escalate into violent encounters. It’s been on the rise since President Trump‘s campaign for office.
Salem County Prosecutor John Lenahan in New Jersey announced Friday that his office got involved in the Woodstown High School case involving four students who discussed hanging Black people and used racial slurs in a social media messaging app, NJ.com reported.
“It’s being investigated by the bias crime investigator of the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office in connection with the Woodstown police. The details of what has transpired have been communicated to the Attorney General’s Office. The determination needs to be made if a crime occurred and that’s where we are right now,” he said.
In addition to the criminal investigation, the high school said it disciplined the students involved. But at least one parent of a Black student at the school has complained that the school’s administrators have not made themselves available to listen to parents’ concerns.
Melissa Hickman, whose daughter attends the school, said she received the runaround.
“I called the school this morning and they told me the principal was not available,” Hickman said on Friday morning, explaining that she was told that he would get back to her. But after school hours on that day, the principal still had not reached out to her.
The mother had plenty to be concerned about. Hickman’s daughter told her that some white students were chanting “free the Caucasian” at lunch after they learned that one of the boys behind the incident was suspended.
Trumps’ embrace of white supremacists and his racially hateful rhetoric has ignited a wave of racial bullying in schools across the nation.
Nationwide, African-American students represented approximately 25 percent of racial bullying victims in 2016, the groups with the highest percentage of incidents, the National Bullying Prevention Center reported.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) coined the phrase “Trump effect” to describe the impact of the president’s hate speech on the sudden rise in racial bullying. SPLC published a report in 2016 based on 10,000 teacher survey responses. It found that two-thirds of respondents reported an increase in student fears, mainly among minority groups, about their safety after the election.
A Black mom had a complaint similar to Hickman’s about school administrators at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona.
Adrienne Bryant learned several days after the incident that two students were suspended on Nov. 30 for a classroom video that showed them racially harassing her son. One of the students wrote, “Eric is a ni**er” in black ink on her forearm, directing the message to Bryant’s son, Eric.
School administrators acknowledged that they left her out of the information loop about what happened, calling it “an oversight” that Bryant was not told happened.
“Does he feel that he is protected, that somebody is looking out for his best interest as a student? Does his voice even matter? And had I not reached out and made the contacts, it probably would’ve went under the rug,” Adrienne said.