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C CAIR-FL In The News

Racial incident investigated at PC high school

By Eryn Dion, For NWF Daily News, On 06 July 2018, Read Original

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Local organizations say this is latest in racially charged behavior in Bay County

LYNN HAVEN — A potentially racially-motivated incident at Mosley High School last week has one parent angry and local organizations calling for action after a classmate placed a prop noose around an African-American student’s neck during class.

The incident happened last Monday, when Dercia Goffigan said her daughter was in drama class. Her daughter and two classmates were in the prop closet when they found a mannequin head hanging by a noose purchased as a prop for the play “The Crucible.” According to a statement by Bay District Schools, one of the classmates picked up the noose and threw it at Goffigan’s daughter and she asked them to stop. The student then picked up the noose and put it around Goffigan’s daughter’s neck.

According to the district, the student apologized at the time of the incident, but when Goffigan heard about what happened, she went to speak to administration officials, who launched an investigation into the incident.

“I was in tears,” Goffigan said, thinking about what happened to her daughter.

Goffigan said she was contacted by the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who held a press conference Tuesday about the incident. Goffigan said she was not at the press conference because she wasn’t told about it in advance, but was able to listen in on speakerphone.

At the press conference, Dr. Rev. Rufus Wood, president of the Bay County chapter of the NAACP, said the incident at Mosley was just the latest act of racially-charged behavior he and others have seen in the community. The noose, he said, is one of the most visually powerful images directed at African-Americans, harkening back to the days of lynching and symbolizing racial intimidation and violence.

“It was no joke,” he said. “It was no prank. Issues of this matter are serious.”

Dr. Russell A. Wright Sr., with the Bay County Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, said they were not publicizing the incident to further divide the community, as the community is already divided between racial lines.

“Racism is not a learned behavior,” he said. “It is taught. This was a taught behavior.”

 

Representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, National Organization of Women, Student Advocacy Center, Bay County Democratic Black Caucus and Panama City City Commissioner Ken Brown were present at the conference and expressed their support for the family, asking the administration to follow their “zero tolerance policy.” These groups also said they would support the family if it sought legal action.

Bay District Schools Director of Communication Sharon Michalik said the Mosley administration investigated the matter thoroughly last week, interviewing students, gathering information and viewing all relevant photos taken at the time. She said one of the students involved was “given the appropriate consequences” as outlined in the district’s discipline matrix, but because of privacy reasons she could not say what those consequences were.

“However, it is with total confidence that we can say that the outcome was in line with the district’s discipline matrix,” Michalik said.

Goffigan said this incident was just the latest in a series of racial incidents her daughter had experienced as Mosley, though she never brought the issue to administrators. She said students complain about racial slurs said to them by other students or written on restroom walls.

“Something has to change,” Goffigan said. “The kids are desensitized.”

To address the issue of graffiti, Michalik said Mosley will hire a part-time employee whose sole responsibility is checking restrooms throughout the day to keep them stocked with supplies and remove any graffiti immediately.

“Any student who experiences a racial slur, whether delivered verbally or in writing on a bathroom wall, is encouraged to come to administration immediately,” she said. “Racial intolerance, discrimination and harassment is not tolerated on any of our campuses.”

She added that Mosley staff will work to better monitor unsupervised areas of campus, such as prop rooms, to make sure students don’t have access to them. She said administrators will work to have more open communication with students regarding inappropriate behavior and they will incorporate cultural awareness training for incoming freshmen.