The mother of a Black boy who attends an Oregon junior high school is demanding action be taken against students who gave her son a note containing a racial slur.
Jennifer Cook says her son Christiaan Bedford, an eighth-grader at Lake Oswego Junior High School, was at school last Friday when three white students handed him a note with the N-word written on it. After Cook saw the note, she was heartbroken.
“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 local news station KGW. “It breaks my heart. It makes me feel like on some level I’ve failed my son.”
According to Cook, two of the three students were given an “in-school” suspension, yet Cook believes more action should have been taken b While the District says there were consequences for a student involved in the incident, Cook believes that not enough is being done.
“I didn’t feel that was sufficient,” she added. “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.’”
Cook said her son has heard the N-word at school before and she wants the students to be made an example.
“They should not be here. And that should be the message,” Cook said of the students responsible.
In a statement, the Lake Oswego School District said a “racial incident” occurred at the school.
“School administrators responded immediately with consequences for the student, but more importantly administrators are working with the involved students using restorative justice strategies,” the statement said. “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."
However, Cook, says when she spoke to the school’s principal, she seemed to make excuses for the incident and students involved with little empathy for Christiaan.
“It was a lot of sympathy for the abusers. But nothing really centered around my son,” she said.
In an online school blog post, Lake Oswego Junior High Principal Sara Deboy wrote:
“I have found that when these words are used, the students have a hard time explaining their intent – they may claim it was meant as a joke, they did not connect the word to the meaning, etc. I believe them. That is why it is on all of us as the adults in their lives to help them understand how we cannot allow these words to be part of jokes or allow them to be thrown around as if they had no meaning.”
Cook has since filed a complaint with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
(Photo: Michael H/Getty Images)