Tippit Middle School in Texas calls racial harassment of student inappropriate, but not bullying
A Texas middle school is being criticized for failing to take the opportunity to properly handle racism in its student body by a parent. Robert Ranco, a civil rights attorney, says that his 12-year-old daughter was subject to multiple instances of racial harassment by her classmates and the school responded with a half-measure. Ranco told Huff Post that his daughter was called an ape and was subject to being whipped with garbage at Tippit Middle School. He found out about the first incident when she text him with a question.
“It said something to the effect of, ‘Hey dad, is it racist when people call a black person an ape?’ I asked for some context and she said they’d taken her phone, looked up pictures of apes and said that was what she looked like,” he said.
Principal Brian Dawson released a report, acquired by the Huffington Post, citing two more incidents of racism the student encountered:
The same female student who made the ape remarks reportedly followed [the girl] around the tennis court with a long piece of trash, pretending to whip [the girl] and saying words to the effect of, “You’re my slave now!”
A few months earlier, after [the girl] pointed out a male student as the source of a lunchtime dispute, the boy reportedly said: “It wasn’t me. You’re not really going to take the word of a black person over the word of a white person, are you?”
School officials claim that they disciplined the students for their heinous actions according to the school code of conduct, but Ranco feels more should’ve happened. He wasn’t even allowed to find out what kind of discipline the students faced to see if it would be effective. However, Suzanne Marchman, the school district director of community engagement and communications, did speak about what the students went through.
“In addition to other disciplinary measures, [the] students involved were counseled regarding their behavior, were required to complete relevant ‘No Place for Hate’ lessons, and complete community service,” Marchman said in an email.
That’s not enough for Ranco, though.
“Those are words,” he said. “It’s hard to know exactly what happened. One thing I know didn’t happen was they didn’t turn this into a learning opportunity for everyone involved. I can excuse children for being ignorant, but this was a missed opportunity in that we all should’ve been able to sit down and talk about it.”
Dawson also told Ranco that the harassment his daughter faced can’t be considered bullying because she never felt as if she was in danger of physical harm. As if the only kind of bullying comes through fists and being stuffed in lockers.
As far as next year goes, Ranco’s daughter will be going to a different school. He also took time to let her know that the students most likely learned their racism at home, so the counseling they went through at school wouldn’t be much help.