NAACP advocates are calling for diversity and equity training in an Arkansas school district after a middle schooler was taunted with racial epithets as she boarded a school bus.
Alyssa Shaw’s mother, Becky Burris, has pulled the biracial 13-year old out of Lavaca Middle School in Lavaca, Arkansas, in response to the incident. It was not the first racist encounter the seventh-grader has faced since transferring to the middle school in the fall.
In a video made public by local ABC affiliate 40/29 News, students on the bus can be heard laughing, chanting “Rosa Parks” and “Black Lives Matter” and calling Alyssa the N-word.
“One of the reasons we went this route is to get it out there that this is not gone. It is still very much alive, and it is still very much happening,” Burris said.
Alyssa said the chants were so loud that she could not hear her own voice. She told reporters it felt like “deliberate disrespect.”
In a letter to Burris, the school principal said the school district investigated the incident and found violations of the school district’s bullying policy. District officials told reporters they could not provide specifics on disciplinary actions because the students are minors.
The Lavaca Police Department has opened an investigation. Students who bullied the teenager could face harassment charges, KLRT reported.
“I don’t know what students were punished and not punished and what their punishments were,” Burris said. “It concerned me that she might be cornered or picked on again.”
Alyssa also said in October, a male student followed her, calling her the N-word and saying that he “hates Black people.”
Burris said she believes her daughter could possibly forgive the students who racially bullied her with time, but it will stick with Alyssa forever.
Olan James, president of the NAACP Sebastian County Unit, said he felt disturbed when he saw Alyssa being cornered in the video. He recommended the district use the incident as an opportunity to address diversity and equity inside the schools. He offered to provide the district assistance from experts.
“If you’re old enough to understand the concept of bullying, we think you’re old enough to be taught a different approach,” James said.
Lavaca Superintendent Steve Rose has reportedly agreed to collaborate with the NAACP and Arkansas Department of Education Equity Assistance to consider implementing programs.
“What about the next Ms. Shaw who doesn’t have an opportunity to transfer to another school district? We have to make sure that it’s better for that student,” James said.