An African American student at New Prairie High School has reportedly been the victim of racial slurs and threats.
School officials said the 16-year-old boy received a threatening note in his locker in March which read: “All N-words must hang.”
Administrators interviewed students in an attempt to identify the person or people responsible, but have been unsuccessful so far in their search.
Prior incidents came to light after the teen was assaulted last Monday in a classroom.
Superintendent of New Prairie United School Corp., Jim Dermody, described it as horseplay. A female classmate said she went to kick the student in the backside when she saw him reaching for her cell phone, but, she ended up kicking him in the groin.
School officials and police said the kick was completely unrelated to any previous racially charged occurrences this particular student may have experienced. The female classmate was disciplined.
When the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Dept. was called about the alleged assault on the teen, his aunt and guardian, Lori Marsh, told them about the note and a phone call they received in January.
The answering machine message was full of racial slurs and talk of “lynching,” however the family never reported it to police.
“It was sickening,” Marsh described, “I felt like they were invading our house, like they’ve gone too far now. They’ve taken it a step too far.”
Investigators said they have been unable to trace the call, however, if they receive more evidence or information about the caller this type of message is considered harassment.
Marsh said her nephews and niece have endured more than their fair share of racism at school. She says her nephew has frequently been called the “N-word” since he entered the district six years ago.
“They’d come up and shoulder check him and call him the N-word,” said Marsh. It got to the point where her nephew stopped telling her about these occurrences at school because he thought nothing would change.
But the superintendent said the district has a zero-tolerance policy for racist behavior.
“Any time any student raises concerns about race, creed or religion, our team immediately acts,” explained Dermody.
When the high school was informed about the note, Dermody said administrators quickly worked to talk with the student to make sure he felt safe and tried their best to figure out who may have been responsible.
“We’re carrying out a number of programs here, and if you have one or two students who don’t follow, we have punitive measures. I hope you can see we’re very proactive, because we would not tolerate that to any race, creed, or religion but we also want to promote a positive image of acceptance,” said Dermody.
The superintendent highlighted assemblies with Rwandan refugees and a student-outreach club as just a few examples.
Marsh said they recognize the difficulty of finding the students responsible for threatening her nephew, however, she wishes the school would do more to teach against racism and be vigilant to prevent future instances of racism to occur.