The racial slur scrawled across a Blue Spring South High School student’s paper last week is a reflection of the cultural climate in this country today, Principal Charles Belt said Wednesday.
At a news conference called by the school to address recently reported racial problems there, Belt said: “We don’t tolerate inappropriate, insensitive and racist, of course, behavior.
“One comment, one insensitive comment, one slur, one racist issue is one too many.”
The student, who is biracial, left her assignment paper in an unlocked physics lab drawer last Tuesday, and when she returned the next day, the N-word had been written across her classwork in capital letters.
Belt said the school administrators have spent “nearly 90 man hours” investigating the incident. The person who did it has been identified, but Belt would not say who it was or what discipline has been meted out.
“Our school is a microcosm of our overall culture, and I would say our culture is more divided than it has been in the last 50 years,” Belt said.
The incident occurred the same day a black Blue Springs barber shop owner discovered the words “Die (N-word)” in black paint across his shop windows.
The two incidents prompted the Blue Springs Human Relations Commission on Tuesday to hold a community meeting to discuss racial tension in the city, where residents revealed some of their children had been the target of racially charged comments at Blue Springs South High School.
Some parents said their children had just this week told them that an area in the school where black students gather to socialize is referred to by white students as “Africa.”
Belt said he did not know that was happening.
“I can’t know everything that happens in a school with 1,500 students,” he said.
A student at the news conference said the Africa label has been used at the school for years. Belt did not give any specifics about what school administration would do to stop the behavior, but added that students and student groups formed this year to promote diversity and inclusion would change the culture.
“We want a school environment that is safe where all kids can learn,” Belt said. “And if a student doesn’t feel safe, if a student doesn’t feel accepted, then that is job one for us, and we will do whatever we need to do to address that.”
Belt was joined at the news conference by students Isaiah Jackson, president of Jags United, a school diversity and inclusion club formed this year, and Carlos Velasquez, the school’s new student body president.
“All the problems are underlying problems among students and not things that teachers or administrators can see,” Velasquez said. “They are things that students really need to be empowered to deal with.”
Jackson said his club intends to hold culture events and bring in speakers next school year and has already written articles in the school paper about religious tolerance.
Last week after the vandalism of Turn-N-Headz Barber Shop, Jackson and Jags United took cards, a banner and signs showing support to the shop owner.
Jackson said, “We need to start with each and every person in our community to create change.”