A Lake Oswego, Ore., mother is calling for stiffer punishment after students at her son’s high school gave the 13-year-old a sticky note with the n-word written on it.
Jennifer Cook said that her son, Christiaan Bedford, was given the note on Friday by three white students at Lake Oswego Junior High School. However, although the Lake Oswego School District claims that a student faced consequences for participation in the incident, Cook believes that not enough is being done.
“I got down [to the school] and found out that three kids had written a racial slur on a sticky note and handed it to my child,” Cook told KGW. “It breaks my heart. It makes me feel like on some level I’ve failed my son.”
Cook said she spoke to staff at the school about what happened and was told that two of the three students received “in-school” suspensions for their role in writing the note, but Cook remains unimpressed.
“I didn’t feel that was sufficient,” she said. “I felt like they had an opportunity here to take a really hard stance, to say, ‘We won’t tolerate this. This is not OK. We have a zero tolerance policy.’”
Christiaan, she added, also feels unsafe. She said that the eighth-grader had heard the slur being used at school before.
“I feel like he should come to school and he should feel safe,” she said. “[The other students who passed the note] should not be here. And that should be the message.”
The school district released a statement acknowledging the “racial incident” and claiming that administrators “responded immediately with consequences”:
School administrators responded immediately with consequences for the student, but more importantly administrators are working with the involved students using restorative justice strategies. LOSD does not tolerate hate speech, bullying, harassment, or any other type of behavior that makes students and parents feel unwelcome in our schools. We actively root out and address inappropriate actions and behaviors that don’t provide for safe and welcoming learning environments.
According to the news station, a spokesperson for the district declined to speak on camera and instead forwarded questions to local anti-racism activist Willie Poinsette, who works with the group Respond to Racism in Lake Oswego.
“I think that we need to deal with the situation. Acknowledge what happens, and make it a learning experience, a learning experience for everybody,” Poinsette said.
Poinsette explained that the group and the school have developed a plan to address the incident but declined to provide details.
Cook is still not satisfied with the response she got.
“It was a lot of ‘they’re just kids,’ ‘they didn’t mean it,’ ‘it’s just a word,’” Cook said.
The mother has filed a complaint with the Southern Poverty Law Center.