A Michigan mom claims her black son’s middle school is letting a white student call him “nigger” nonstop.
That’s the case Sumayyah Waver laid out in a federal civil lawsuit last week against Grand Rapids Public Schools. Ever since last September, Waver said her eighth-grade son has become a verbal punching bag.
“Is this more of a case that we have become desensitized to racial issues where the use of the N-word is somehow different then when you’re talking about what’s happening between kids?” Waver’s attorney Nakisha Chaney told The Daily Beast. “It doesn’t seem to strike us in the same way as a boy calling a girl ‘a cunt’ every day in school.
“That would never be tolerated.”
On Oct. 3, 2015, Waver emailed the special ed teacher at Sherwood Park Middle School to report that “the offending student continued to call her son a nigger.”
The mother then wrote the school’s special education supervisor to say that when her son would try to defend himself against “his Caucasian classmate,” he was the only one reprimanded. “[He] will get a level drop for yelling at [the student] to stop, but something needs to be done about [sic] being called a nigger daily.”
Despite the mother’s pleas with the teacher who ran the complaint up the school’s flagpole, administrators “did not intervene to stop the conduct.”
On Nov. 12 the boy’s mother was told by Special Education Supervisor Sara Larkin that “if this is a continuing issue…[they] should come to the table and come up with some type of plan to address the racial slangs.”
Six weeks went by and, according to the lawsuit, the mother was given an apology that “it has taken so long” and assurances that a team would be assembled “to address her concerns.”
They didn’t, so she sued.
The lawsuit claims the administration appeared to have let the racial ridicule drag on while her son “continues to be be called a nigger and other slurs by his classmate.” Moreover, her son “has suffered retaliation” after she spoke up for him, “including being suspended, falsely accused of misconduct, and stripped of behavioral points.”
The white student, the lawsuit claims, continues to call the boy the nigger “without restraint” and “has not been subjected to the same severity of punishment which [sic] suffered for a lesser misconduct.”
A Grand Rapids Public Schools spokesman said in a statement that their lawyers are ready to review the lawsuit but “we are not commenting on pending litigation at this time.”
The months and months of the alleged verbal abuse created what the lawsuit called a “hostile racial environment” and compelled the boy’s mother to seek therapy “to help him cope with this situation.”
“How could something like this be allowed to persist for so long?” Nakisha Chaney said. “This is just a failure to appreciate the gravity of the situation.”
The fact is the 14-year-old boy who is referred to by his initials, is forced to be slandered daily and nobody has been willing to offer a lifeline.
“On top of the daily indignity of being called this name on frequent basis--there’s also the concern he’s been disciplined,” she said.
The teacher and the administration apparently tried sitting down with both boys to have a conversation but beyond that “we don’t know what they did and the conduct persisted… they didn’t do anything to remedy it,” Chaney said.
According to a school official the class where the hate speak allegedly happened is made up of some special needs kids. But that is something that the mother’s attorney says is irrelevant.
“Regardless if it’s a special ed class the district has a duty to investigate the situation,” Chaney said, stressing that a lawsuit is a way to get the school to stop stonewalling. “We want to have a firmer understanding of what the administration was and wasn’t doing.”
And the solution isn’t for the student to transfer schools. “Not every parent has the capacity or the ability to just pull their child out and provide for him with the kind of education he needs,” Chaney said. “Why should he have to move as a result of what the school is or isn’t doing? It’s not on him… The school district has the obligation to correct this.”
She highlighted that certain civil rights laws are also clearly being breached and that the entire reason for the lawsuit is to compel the school to come forward with answers and intel.
“This is a systematic failure,” she said. “To paint this kind of picture it’s not a good picture and demands a complaint.
“Sure, teachers have a hard job these days and schools are having challenging situations but I think we need to untangle this and then figure out if we are going to tolerate a certain amount of bullying.”