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Kandise Lucas, Ph.D. - Today, a court case was heard in the courtroom of Judge Douglas Carr, in Chesterfield County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court involving two African-American male students from LC Byrd High School.
Based on the testimony of Angela Hamer, Assistant Principal at L.C. Byrd High School in Chesterfield, Virginia, she stated that she witnessed, what can be characterized as a “mob” fight in front of the bus loop of the school. Hamer also testified that, as she was standing at the bus ramp, she witnessed a “swarm of several students walking in a fast pace, almost running,” toward her, and she indicated that she knew that something was wrong.
Hamer, who served as a witness for the Chesterfield Commonwealth Attorney’s was questioned by David Rigler, who prosecuted the two African-American students. She went on to describe the actions of the two African-American students that were fighting a white student, in detail, however, was unable to provide details regarding the other students, who were by all eyewitness accounts, a majority white., and who were also involved in what Rigler classified as a “mob” fight.
During cross-examination, Hamer admitted that she did not know what had led to the confrontation at the bus loop that resulted in the mob fight involving two African-American students and a group of white students. She also admitted that she did not know what had been done to the two African-American students prior to the fight at the bus loop, or if the white students had struck the African-American students prior to arriving in the bus loop. Based on courtroom observations, she gave the impression that the incident had still not been fully investigated by the administration of LC Byrd nearly three months later.
The family of the African-American students that were charged were not only frustrated with her claims, but were shocked at the fact that she reversed the story that they had been told by the administration of L.C. Byrd when the incident initially took place in November 2010. At that time, they were advised that it was the white students that had began the altercation when a group of them began throwing paper balls at the African-American students during a pep rally. It was also reported that the altercation escalated when one of the African-American students confronted the group of white students about throwing the paper at them.
Witnesses indicated that the confrontation escalated even further when one of the white students within the large group called one of the African-American students a”nigger,” as they were leaving the pep rally, going toward the bus ramp. It was at that point, based on reports, that the mob of students began running and fighting in the bus loop.
The Chesterfield Commonwealth Attorney’s office put one of the white students who was involved in the mob fight, on the stand as one of their witnesses, also claiming that the white student was a “victim” of assault. The parents of the prosecuted students indicated that they received notification that their students were being charged with assault a significant amount of time after the incident took place at the school. One parent also stated that they were advised that the parents of one of the white students that initiated the mob fight, but eventually lost his fight with another student, pressured the authorities into charging the two African-American students that he lost the fight to. Prior to today's trial, the parents repeatedly spoke with Hamer and Rigler.
Following the testimonies offered by the prosecution and the defense, Judge Carr rendered his decision, stating that he believed that the African-American students were indeed victims of racial slurs and having paper balls hurled at them during the pep rally prior to the outbreak of the mob fight, which lead to their suspension and criminal prosecution of the two African-American students by Chesterfield Schools and the Chesterfield Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. Carr also did not hesitate to point out the inconsistencies within the African-American student's testimony, but failed to address the obvious false testimony of the white student that the prosecution presented, who stated that he did not have contact with the two African-American students prior to the bus ramp incident.
While Judge Carr commented that no parent expected to send their child to school to face this type of violence, he failed to comment on the fact that no African-American parent expects to send their child to any school that openly permits, protects, and rewards racist bullies that engage in the verbal and physical assault of African-American males. His lack of response from the bench in addressing the cause of the mob fight and Commonwealth Attorney Rigler's refusal to charge the white students further supports the lack of cultural competence and rampant racial insensitivity and disparity that exists within our court systems.
As the parties were leaving the court room, a relative of one of the African American students attempted to speak with Angela Hamer, the Assistant Principal at Byrd who falsely claimed, in court, based reports from parents, that she did not know what lead to the mob fight at the bus loop. She was asked what actions were being taken by the administration at L.C. Byrd to protect students of color, specifically African-American male students, from racially-motivated bullying. Hamer responded, “I am not going to discuss this,” as she quickly exited the courtroom.
African-American parents and family members are now asking the following questions regarding this incident, which has become a far too common occurrence inChesterfield County Public Schools regarding African-American male students, so much so that The Office of Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations have been asked to initiate an investigation into the matter:
1) Why were a group of white students permitted to repeatedly throw paper at two African-American students and then call them “nigger” without it being addressed by LC Byrd’s school administration, and where was the supervision?
2) Why weren’t the white students that engage in the racially-motivated bullying and physical assault with paper balls charged by Chesterfield’s Commonwealth Attorney for their actions, especially when it was documented and confirmed by the school and Judge Carr that they were guilty of these actions?
3) Why did, based on statements by parents of the African-American students, did the administration of Byrd High School make false statements in court, claiming that they did not know what lead to the mob fight, and stating that they were not aware of the racial slurs and physical assault that were aimed at the African-American students?
4) Why was David Rigler, the Deputy Commonwealth Attorney for Chesterfield, so willing to severely prosecute the African-American students that participated in the mob fight, but failed to prosecute the white students that provoked and initiated the fight by physically and racially abusing the African-American students?
5) If there was a mob-fight involving many students in the bus loop at LC Byrd, why were the only two individuals charged African-American students?
6) Why were the white students that, by Judge Carr’s own admission, took part in the racially provoking actions toward the two African-American students, portrayed as “victims” by Rigler and the school district when they blatantly violated the civil rights of the two students of color which resulted in the physical confrontation?
One parent stated that “Chesterfield Schools boasts about their zero tolerance policy for bullying, but evidently, it does not apply to racially-motivated bullying, and it definitely does not apply to African-Americans that are bullied by whites, even when it is a group of whites and a couple of black students. This reminds me of the South in the 1950’s, when a group of whites could do anything that they wanted to a black person, and never be held accountable.”
Another family member stated, “being black is becoming more and more of a liability for African-American males in Chesterfield County Public Schools.” They went on to state “it is still amazing to see a school system and a court system that is willing to defend, protect, and even uphold whites that violate the civil rights of our young black men. These boys took matters into their own hands because the white administrators at this majority white school, did not see fit to stop white students from throwing things and yelling racial slurs at them. What else are they suppose to do when adults, like the ones at LC Byrd, fail to protect them?”
Institutionalized racism is alive and well in Chesterfield County Public Schools, as well as within the county’s Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. One can only assume that this case is one of hundreds in which African-American students, specifically male students, are singled out for unequal and discriminatory treatment not only by the school system, but by the Commonwealth Attorney’s office as well.
The individuals involved in this case have opted to file formal complaints with The United States Office of Civil Rights and The Department of Justice based on discriminatory actions of Chesterfield County Public Schools and the Chesterfield Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. The request includes investigating allegations of perjury on behalf of Assistant Principal Angela Hamer, and possible prosecutorial misconduct on the part of Commonwealth Attorney David Rigler .
The United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has documented complaints regarding discrimination against students of color within Chesterfield County Public Schools. There have also been reports indicating that the district was cited by The Virginia Department of Education for its mistreatment of students with special needs when it involves discipline, specifically African-American males students. Most recently, the district was accused of retaliating against students with special needs.
Based on what appears to be systematic and institutionalized racism within Chesterfield Schools and the county’s Commonwealth Attorney’s Office regarding these cases and many others, several parents, advocates, and students are considering their legal options, including the possibility of a class action civil rights lawsuit on behalf of students of color against the district, and possibly the county.
We will be watching and waiting to see if Commonwealth Attorney David Rigler goes after the white students as vigorously has he did the African-Americans.
This is a prime example of the attitudes and characterizations of African Americans that has been allowed to germinate unabatedly in our main stream culture up to this day, particularly towards our young men. This racially motivated perception remains firmly engrained in the psyche of all of our institutions. It reinforces that we are to be mistrusted, feared and never given the benefit of any doubts when it comes to any evaluations of our guilt or innocence.
This argument seems to conflict with the fact that there is an African American president in the white house but I would argue that this speaks directly to the opinion that; his qualification and competence not withstanding, the fact that Mr. Obama is mixed and was raised primarily by his white family, was sufficient comfort to alleviate somewhat the scourge of some whites. Does anyone honestly believe that we would have a black president today if he were not of mixed blood? Why?