A Louisiana school district has made moves to implement a no-hate speech clause in its policy after a teenager was a victim of hate speech while attending class.
In March of 2021, Stephanie Miller’s teenage son was attending a virtual class at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy in Westwego when he allegedly saw his name next to a racial slur and a brown stick figure hanging from a noose on the screen.
The mother said she reported the incident to the school and the Jefferson Parish school district, but they were unable to locate the person who created the drawing and used the derogatory term toward her child, according to WDSU.
The person who made the drawing and was a part of the bullying, according to court records, had the screen name, “BBLAKFACEEEEE.”
The school acknowledged that Miller’s son was involved in an incident, and the district launched “an investigation due to its serious and sensitive nature.”
“Jefferson Parish Schools strictly prohibits bullying and harassment in any form and values diversity, equity and inclusion,” the schools said. “The district worked closely with the family, app vendor, and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office to conduct a thorough investigation. Due to limited data retained by the app, the district was unable to identify the responsible party.”
According to the school, the district immediately disabled Gimkit, the learning app, district-wide in an effort to prevent anything like this from happening again.
The school sent a letter following the incident offering “sincere apologies for the inappropriate drawing and use of a racial slur that targeted” her son.
Regardless of the changes, Miller still has launched a lawsuit against the school and the district, claiming negligence. The school says nothing could have been done to prevent anything from happening.
“I want something so dark, dim, and cruel to be brought to the light, and I feel that has not happened until now,” Miller said. “This needs to be told. It is hard to look at to know the person is out there. We don’t have a clue to who it is. It could be someone sitting right next to him.”
Gimkit said it collects “minimal data for privacy purposes.”
“The Classes” feature was “designed to prevent such incidents by keeping Gimkit games more secure and tracking the names of players,” representatives said. “It is available in the program and is utilized at the teacher’s discretion.”
However, the teacher did not use it.
The separate conversation was about the school district’s policy on the use of language that insulted and assaulted young Taylor.
On July 5, school officials amended their policy to include anti-hate speech-language, prohibiting it on school campuses.
It took officials approximately a month for a Discipline Policy Review Committee to make the appropriate changes to the policy. After it left the DPRC, which started its work on June 6, the changes were sent to the superintendent and school board. On June 22, the amendments were presented to the community at its public meeting agenda regarding the policy.
The Director of School Safety, David Malveaux, said while he could not comment on Miller’s son’s case because litigation is ongoing, the district is “mandated by law to conduct an investigation.”
“Our law enforcement agency has their way of tracking it through subpoenas and court records and things like that. They conduct their own independent investigation. We have nothing to do with what they do,” he said.
He adds as children return back to school, the district has done everything to make sure they are safe from bullying.