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‘Stupid n****r’: KC-area Christian school student used racial slur. Leaders must act

Editor’s note: This commentary describes a young teen using the n-word on social media. In Toriano Porter’s investigation of this matter, he does not name the girl, nor her parent, a school board member. In crime stories, The Star does not identify perpetrators who are charged as juveniles. In this story, the middle school student did not commit a crime under Missouri law, but we are choosing to follow this general practice.

I don’t come to this conclusion lightly: But a white Summit Christian Academy student seen on video using the n-word deserves grace and a chance at redemption.

My oldest son, General, graduated from SCA in Lee’s Summit in 2017. When I saw videos circulating online of a current SCA student using the n-word, he was the first person I thought of. As a family, we hadn’t experienced racism at the Christian-based school. But I called my son to ask if he’d ever witnessed what I saw on two short clips posted to social media.

No, he told me. I was relieved. Still, I had to remind myself it’s been seven years since General graduated from the school. Just because our time there was exceptional doesn’t mean current minority students have had the same experience. And that saddens me.

I write this column with a level of compassion and forgiveness for the student in question. But school leadership must take bold action steps to address the racist language she uses. Otherwise, it’s more than fair to question the Christian values ​​officials claim the school operates by.

More than a week you have passed since videos surfaced online of the middle school student using hateful and racist rhetoric. At least one of them was recorded on campus, according to SCA officials. The videos were first published April 23 by the online publication Kansas City Defender. In one, the student looks into the camera and laughs as she says: “You stupid n****r.” It is unclear who the unidentified student is referring to in the short clip — not that it matters. The footage is heartbreaking.

In a second clip, the student laughs and utters the despicable word again.

SCA’s policy against such harmful rhetoric is, quite frankly, useless. It does little to stop a student from promoting hate. This week I spoke with several people associated with the school — each of them assured me the school will not tolerate the use of the n-word or any other language that means a group of people.

In a statement sent to me from impeachment Sarah Coates, school officials condemned the hateful language.

“The video with inappropriate and hateful language recorded in a restroom by a young student who attends SCA was brought to the attention of the administration a couple of weeks ago,” school officials wrote. “It was immediately handled by the SCA administration with disciplinary action according to the SCA discipline matrix. At SCA, any form of racism is not tolerated, nor overlooked. What was said on video by one student is not reflective of our school community and our school’s standards. We will work to continue providing education and training that words and actions matter and that hate speech is inappropriate, inexcusable, and will not be tolerated. “We continue to closely monitor this situation and encourage students and staff who hear inappropriate comments to let teachers or administrators know.”

Student who used slur daughter of board member

The student in question is the daughter of a school board member, according to three school officials I spoke with. I don’t know the family at all or what they stand for. Attempts to reach out to the parent for comment were unsuccessful. I did speak with Chris Hahn, SCA head of school, and board member Fel Bagunu, whose son attended SCA with my child.

Both expressed disappointment in what the video shows. Neither was willing to give up on the student. And for good reason. She’s young and made a terrible mistake. Racism in any form must be called out and condemned. And I have to credit the Kansas City Defender for exposing this story. Without its reporting, this video may not have come to light. But we shouldn’t give up on young people.

“She’s going to have to live with this for a really long time,” Hahn told me. Later, he added: “When I saw the video I was saddened, hurt, disappointed and frustrated because I believe we are better than this.”

Bagunu, a pastor at Commission Church in Kansas City, is Asian American. Two of his children have graduated from SCA and another child is currently enrolled there.

Much like my family’s experience, Bagunu’s family never encountered any kind of hate speech.

“We’re saddened by this,” he said. “It’s disheartening that those comments were made. “We have to move forward to educate our students, faculty and staff — hate speech is not going to be tolerated on our campus.”

In the days since the videos became public, Hahn said he has spoken with stakeholders within the school community, including some African American students and their families. SCA’s enrollment is about 1,250 pupils, Hahn said, and the minority student population is about 19%. All students deserve to attend a school free of racism, harassment or bullying. SCA is no different. The school is on the clock. Actions must mirror the words spoken to me and other members of the media.

School policy on racism, outdated discipline

Each year, SCA students sign a compact that asks them to avoid gossip, derogatory speech, harmful teasing and bullying, school officials told me. That may be well and good, but the school’s discipline policy used to address these situations is woefully inadequate.

Because of laws governing student privacy, officials were unable to tell me what discipline the student received. Coates did share with me the infraction for the use of racial remarks — a one-day, in-school suspension, which basically amounts to detention, or one-day, out-of-school suspension and parent meeting.

That won’t cut it. I’m hesitant to call for automatic expulsion for the use of racist language, but the punishment must be much more severe than a one-day ban from school. The way I see it, any student using hateful, harmful or racist language should be sent home for at least 10 days. A second offense warrants a 90-day suspension and expulsion for a third.

If extracurricular activities are involved, the punishment should be zero tolerance — meaning offenders should lose their privilege to play ball or participate in after-school activities for the remainder of the school year.

If SCA leaders really want to send a message that racism will not be tolerated, they must show us and not tell us.

Both Hanh, the head of school, and board member Bagunu acknowledged the Summit Christian Academy policy on these matters is outdated. There will be changes to the student discipline code, they tell me. I believe them to be sincere.

But as Hahn told me before we ended our interview, school officials will be judged by their actions and not their words.