The Franklin Township Board of Education allegedly failed to do enough to end the bullying of an African-American student, who was targeted with racial epithets and told to “go back to the ‘hood,” a state official said Wednesday.
The girl was an 8-year-old third grader at Main Road School in Newfield when the alleged harassment started in 2005. It continued through her sixth-grade year at the school in 2009, despite her parents’ complaints to school officials, according to a finding of probable cause by the state Division on Civil Rights.
The race-based taunts, allegedly made by white students, took place on the school bus and school grounds.
In June 2006, the girl’s parents asked for a transfer to another district for the new school year, but they were denied, the document said. The child had been so distraught that she told her parents she didn’t want to go the school, and her grades later started to worsen, officials said.
“The student conduct described in this case is deplorable, and the lack of a genuinely effective response by the school district illustrates a concern we are committed to addressing statewide through both awareness and enforcement,” the division’s director Chinh Q. Le said in a statement.
The district did not return several calls for comment on Wednesday.
The district has denied discriminating against the student or that she was a victim of racial harassment or a hostile environment. Officials have also asserted that any harassment and bullying reported by the student was immediately investigated and dealt with appropriately.
The recent finding does not resolve a civil rights complaint filed by the family in January 2008. Rather, it means that the division, which is part of the state Attorney General’s Office, found sufficient evidence to suspect that the state’s Law Against Discrimination was violated.
Penalties for violating the law include up to a $10,000 penalty and remedies, such as compensatory damages, work policy changes and training.
In the Newfield case, the girl’s parents, who live in Franklinville, kept her home for about 15 days at one point in May 2006.
Later, in January 2007, two fourth-grade girls targeted the girl with a racial epithet and called her “ugly,” officials alleged. The two students were suspended and made to watch videos on racial discrimination and equal rights, including ones related to Rosa Park, documents showed.
That spring, on the last day of school, the same two female students again targeted the girl, who is now 13, with the same racial epithet; her father told state officials he did not report the incident because he had grown reluctant to do so, according to state documents.
In March 2008, in a conversation with the girl’s parents about their dissatisfaction about how a November 2007 incident was handled, Main Road’s principal told the couple the Gloucester County school “can not stop children from calling out racial names… at the school,” the document shows.
The case will be referred to a negotiation process. If that fails, a non-jury trial will be held before an Administrative Law Judg
Contact staff writer Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or email@example.com.