The issue of whether a School of the Arts senior should be kicked out for tweeting the “n word” about a black classmate is dividing the Charleston County School Board and the community.
What you said
The following are some of the comments made online by readers about the issue:“What amazes me is how the feelings of the junior (who was the target of the tweet) or the damage this situation has caused her has not been mentioned. No one can determine if she will recover from being involved with this situation. ... This senior made comments and should pay the consequence.”— Marcus Brandon“While it is nice that (district executive director of strategy and communications) Erica Taylor understands the part of the federal law that prohibits discussion of disciplinary matters, it would be even more impressive if she understood our basic rights of free expression and that all people, students included, say dumb things from time to time. The constituent school board dealt with it and that should have been the end of the discussion.” — Stanley Feldman“I find it hard to believe that a white high school senior, speaking in reference to a black student/person, would not know that this type of language would cause problems for them if it was to be heard by anyone other than those intended to hear it. I feel that the punishment should fit the offense, I don’t believe that we should down play it to the point that she is not held accountable for her actions. Please let us not dismiss the need for sensitivity by calling it political correctness!!!!! Should she be denied the right to march with her class or go to the prom? NO!!!!!” — Frank Russell“Charleston County has WRONGED this senior student on MANY levels!! Not on school property at the time of tweet, not during school hours, nine days to ‘make it an issue,’ and WHAT about the REAL ISSUES that occur EVERYDAY during school and at school!! I hope the senior sues CCSD and WINS. This is a blatant mis-use of authority!!!” — Bea AnnieSource: postandcourier.com
Some, such as Charleston NAACP Chairwoman Dot Scott, said the school board must send a strong message that bullying and racial threats can’t be tolerated. Scott said the black classmate, a junior, already has to deal with being a minority in a predominantly white school. Fourteen percent of School of the Arts students are black.
“We’re not talking about the pain of the black girl,” Scott said. “What about her life, her right to go to school and not be intimidated?”
Others, such as school board member Elizabeth Moffly, said the district administration has overstepped its authority and shouldn’t be policing an activity that happened off school grounds outside school hours.
“I don’t think it was disruptive to the learning environment, and ... I don’t think it was any of (the district’s) business,” she said. “I think it’s dangerous territory for the district to be monitoring (students’) private lives outside of school.”
The senior will learn her fate today when the board meets.
The case involves School of the Arts senior Ashley Patrick, who tweeted from her iPhone at home that if a junior in one of her classes “makes one more got damn remark in Roger’s class tomorrow ... (expletive) will drop.” Patrick posted a link to a picture of a young white girl squeezing her eyes shut and crossing her fingers. The text on the photo read “I wish a nigga would.”
Patrick, who is white, apologized and was suspended from school for five days, but the district administration considered the tweet intimidation and wants her removed from the school. Patrick’s attorney, Dwayne Green, said Patrick is facing unduly harsh consequences because the black student’s mother is Lisa Herring, one of the highest ranking leaders in the school district.
The North Charleston (District 4) Constituent School Board voted unanimously to allow Patrick to stay at School of the Arts. The district has appealed that decision to the county school board, which will determine whether Patrick can walk at graduation and go to prom.
Some board and community members expressed concern Tuesday with the district administration appealing the decision of the constituent school board. Benjamin D’Allesandro, a member of the downtown (District 20) Constituent School Board, said the majority of his board urged the county school board to support the North Charleston board’s ruling.
Constituent school boards have few powers, and one of those is to make decisions on student transfers and expulsions. A unanimous decision by the North Charleston board is a strong statement, and that shouldn’t be undone by the county school board, he said.
“We don’t want a precedent being set where people will just start appealing our ruling to the county school board,” D’Allesandro said.
County school board member Todd Garrett agreed, saying the county school board generally should support constituent school boards, because those boards are more familiar with students and their situations.
At a 10 a.m. meeting today, at least five county school board members — confirmed attendees are Chairman Cindy Bohn Coats, Vice Chairman Craig Ascue, Garrett, Michael Miller and Moffly — will decide on how Patrick should be disciplined. The district administration plans to have a closed-door hearing, although Patrick and her attorney have asked for it to be open.
When Miller read the story about Patrick in Tuesday’s Post and Courier, he said he immediately thought of his own 4-year-old daughter and what he would have done if such a tweet were directed at her.
“If that had been my little girl, heads would’ve rolled,” he said. “That word has the venom of a poisonous snake, and it doesn’t matter how many generations have gone, that word is still venomous. You can’t say it in jest and expect the word to not be as severe.”
Neither Coats nor Ascue said they wanted to prejudge Patrick’s case until hearing in person what both sides had to say.
“I don’t want to muddy the waters anymore,” Ascue said.
The school board will have to grapple with First Amendment and racial-justice issues, and Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, said both are important.
She had concerns with the racially offensive comment tweeted, but she also took issue with kicking students out of school rather than helping them learn from the incident, she said. The question is whether the tweet was offensive enough to cause a disruption at school, she said.
“We should be about educating kids on why something is inappropriate and not gloss over it,” Middleton said.