LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Several Little Compton 8th graders are accused of aiming racial slurs at a black classmate in a series of incidents that included a broken thumb from an alleged assault, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.
The mother said a bullying report was filed following slurs made “around and toward” her 8th grade daughter during an Oct. 24 bus trip.
The girl’s mother alleged it was not the first incident involving a group of about a half-dozen Wilbur & McMahon School students. (The school is the only one in town, and includes about 250 students from kindergarten through grade 8.)
She said the issue has been happening since September, “usually when teachers weren’t around.”
The incident on the bus provoked the decision to seek help from the school district.
The girl told her father students on the bus were repeatedly saying racial slurs, claiming it was “a ‘joke” and encouraging others to use the word as well.
Superintendent Laurie Dias-Mitchell said she could not comment on the incident, referring Target 12 to school attorney Jon Anderson.
“On the very same day that the mother made her complaint, the school simultaneously began an investigation of the allegation,” Anderson said in a statement. “A social worker and psychologist [were sent] into the two eighth grade classes to talk about sensitivity, diversity and language.”
The complaint has led to what is known as a Targeted Student Safety Plan.
The plan takes effect after the student and one of her parents sign it, and would continue through the end of the school year. It outlines how school personnel will work toward helping the student feel safe at school.
“The school will immediately report any harassing, intimidating or bullying behavior,” the plan states. “If bullying or harassing continues and/or escalate [sic], law enforcement may be called in.”
According to the girl’s mother, the tension did escalate with an alleged assault that left her daughter with a bruised forearm and a broken thumb on Nov. 15 at the Little Compton Community Center during the 7th and 8th Fun Night event.
Little Compton Police Chief Scott Raynes said he could not offer any details about the case due to the ages of those involved, but did say his department determined a crime was not committed.
The girl’s mother is not satisfied by that, saying the school has handled the bullying in “an underwhelming and ineffective manner.”
“The behavior has been allowed to escalate, culminating in a student intentionally breaking [my daughter’s] thumb,” she said. “This was not just kids playing. The student grabbed her arm and bent back her thumb.”
The mother also provided what she said was a Facebook post from a student.
“I’m sorry if what I said offended you,” the post said. “I was simply saying something that a lot of students were saying. I was just trying to be funny and if what I said was wrong I deeply do apologize.”
Anderson said he did “not know what more the parents are expecting the school to do.”
“The school handled the mater in a textbook manner,” Anderson said. “As the chronology shows, practically every day [after the complaint was filed] the school followed up with the student, her family and the class.”
The mother said she hopes the district and town will use the incident as an opportunity to educate everyone about the hate and violence associated with the two-syllable racial slur that was used by the student.