PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence School District punished a student for sending a racially-charged text message to a classmate’s parents from a teacher’s laptop, prompting an investigation and a review of communications protocol.
The father, who asked not to be identified to protect his daughter’s identity, showed Target 12 a string of text messages that began with a teacher discussing a classroom issue.
“I am having a difficult time with [your daughter] today,” the text said. “She was asked to move her seat and refused.”
The mother of the Roger Williams Middle School student responded after a few more messages from the teacher.
“Let her know if she does not straighten up right now, she will be punished,” the response to the teacher said.
About a half hour later, the parents received a message they said shocked them.
“Shes (sic) a (racial slur deleted),” the message said.
The parents said the three-word text provoked a wave of emotions.
“Anger, confusion, hurt, disgusted. Just complete shock,” the father said.
“My daughters hurt, my family’s hurt. And we want a lot of answers.”
Some of the answers came from Providence School District Public Information Officer Laura Hart, who said a student has been disciplined through the district Code of Conduct.
“It appears that a teacher left her laptop unattended to assist a student, at which time another student accessed the computer and sent an unauthorized message,” Hart said.
The parents are relatively satisfied with the response, but the father said, “I definitely want to see the evidence on how they came upon that it was a student who did this.”
Hart said the district did plan on contacting the parents, adding that is looking into how unauthorized computer access by students can be stopped.
“We are also reviewing our communications protocols to ensure this does not happen in the future,” Hart said.
Good idea, according to these parents.
“Other students could have access to this and bully other students and send messages to other family members,” the father said. “That family member would think it came from and teacher and think its legit.”
The family is Puerto Rican, and while the slur is generally aimed at people of African descent, the parents said they find the slur to be extremely offensive.
“We hear it, but we don’t use it and we tell our daughter not to use it either,” he said.