The story of a 10-year-old boy who’s experienced racial taunting at an Alabama elementary school has many investigating a potential rise in race-based conflict. Taylor Armbrester says he has been the victim of racial bullying ever since he transferred to Chelsea Park Elementary School — a predominantly white school — last fall.
According to Taylor, other fifth graders have called him"black boy" and "retarded," and he’s been punched and kicked. One student reportedly told Taylor the school was better off without him, reported AL.com.
Last Tuesday, Taylor said a student came up to him during lunch and recited a poem:
"Roses are red, violets are blue, I am white, you should be too. Roses are red, violets are blue, I am white, why aren't you? Roses are red, violets are blue, God made me pretty, what happened to you?"
After taking the student to a meeting with the guidance counselor, Taylor's bully told him they were just jokes.
"He said, 'Don't take it offensively,'" Taylor told AL.com of his meeting with the bully. "I know he was just playing a joke. I said, 'I hope you know God doesn't like that.'"
"They think they can just do it to me," Taylor added. "They think I'm dumb or something. They kept on doing it to me."
Taylor has also been the victim of physical altercations, one even led to a hospital visit. One day on the basketball court, Taylor was shooting the ball when a girl came and asked if she could shoot. Instead of shooting a basket, she threw the ball so hard at Taylor, he broke his finger. His mother then took him to the emergency room.
"He seems to be an easy target," said his mother, Shaneka Phillips, who works as child sponsorship coordinator for MakeWay Partners — a ministry that runs orphanages in Sudan.
Although the school has been made aware of the reports, they have claimed these are isolated incidents. The students involved in the bullying have had meetings with the school officials to address the problem. Assistant Principal Mary Anderson and a guidance counselor met with Taylor and his mother on Friday.
"This would be an isolated case," said Assistant Principal Anderson to AL.com. "I have not had to deal with [cases of racial bullying]."
"We have children of all races," she added.
When it comes to Chelsea Park, 88 of the 883 students are Black, 23 are Asian, 40 are Hispanic, and 1 is Pacific Islander. Over 80% of the students are white, according to the school's Student Summary Count as of May 12.
Although some statistics suggest bullying in schools is on the decline, the Southern Poverty Law Center believes there is anecdotal evidence that race based bullying has increased since the 2016 election. They have called this the "The Trump Effect."
After meeting with the counselor and principal, Taylor's mother said she's satisfied the school has taken action.
"I walked away feeling better than I felt all year," Phillips said after the meeting with the assistant principal. "Ms. Anderson has shown proven results."