A teen who was reportedly called the N-word repeatedly at school was suspended and had the police called on her after standing up for herself.
On Wednesday, Chanese Knox, a junior at Greendale High School in Wisconsin, led her friends in protest, alleging that her suspension in September was the result of a racially charged environment on campus that the school has failed to address.
Knox and her friends were walking to class on Sept. 12 when a white female classmate referred to the group using the N-word. “My daughter was upset, particularly because the girl said it loudly and none of her peers intervened,” Knox’s mother, Diannia Merriett, 43, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The 16-year-old reported the incident to the school guidance counselor, and Merriett met with the principal the following day. But the conversation went nowhere, the mom says.
Walking to class with friends the following day, the same student again called Knox the N-word. “This time, my daughter responded by saying, ‘Why are you walking away?’ — and there were profanities,” Merriett says. “There was no physical contact.”
Thirty minutes later, Knox was pulled out of class by the vice principal, who met the teen in her office with two police officers. “The police told her, ‘We’re here for disorderly conduct, and we want you to stay calm,'” Merriett claims. “They said, ‘You’re not going to jail this time, but they’ll speak to you about your conduct.'”
Merriett, who was not present for the meeting, says they suggested to her daughter that school security footage showed her body language toward the other student appeared threatening.
She says the police took no action against her daughter (a representative from the Greendale Police Department did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment), but Knox was suspended for one day. Two weeks later, Merriett attempted to appeal the suspension without success.
On Thursday, Greendale Schools Superintendent Gary Kiltz sent a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle: “Greendale Schools is committed to the safety and well-being of all students. District administration takes every student, family and staff concern seriously and investigates all matters brought to our attention. Threats, hate speech and harassment have no place in our school community.”
The statement continues: “In accordance with Federal student privacy laws, we are not able to provide specifics regarding the incident and student consequences referenced. We can tell you that the students involved in this situation have been counseled and appropriate school actions have been taken in accordance with District practice. School administration continues to offer to work with the student and her mother to ensure she feels safe at school. We take these concerns very seriously and will continue to investigate the matters raised.”
But according to Merriett, Knox and her peers frequently experience racism at school, which they claim the institution does not deal with. “Last year, a classmate posted a Snapchat video of herself dressed in white saying, ‘I’m going to join the KKK,'” Merriett says. “When Chanese took a screenshot for the vice principal, she was just interrogated about how many people viewed it.
“Parents have emailed me about their children dealing with racism at this school and white parents whose children have witnessed it,” she adds.
Since her suspension, Knox has suffered from nightmares and anxiety. She has missed homecoming and two swim meets, and her grades have dropped. But Merriett, who filed a police complaint against her daughter’s accused aggressor, says the protests will continue — the next gathering will be Monday afternoon in front of the school. “We’ll continue until the school takes action.”
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