A lawsuit has been filed by the parents of a young black girl in South Carolina who claim their academically gifted daughter, a student at Hand Middle School, was physically and verbally terrorized for “acting white.”
According to a study and news article cited by the federal civil rights lawsuit, the girl’s tormentors are black themselves.
The alleged bullying has gone on for two years. The lawsuit itself reads like a horror show of humiliation and physical abuse that began almost immediately upon her arrival at the school in 2015.
Although approximately 50 percent of the students at Hand Middle School identify as African American, India was one of the few African Americans in her honors and advanced classes during the 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 school years.
According to the lawsuit, what followed was physical assaults: pushing and shoving, water thrown in her face, two chipped teeth, and a beating with a bottle. On one occasion “a group of three female students attempted to push India down a flight of stairs. These same students had verbally accosted India on prior occasions and continued to do so after the assault.”
The motivation all appears to be racial. On top of the physical bullying, the lawsuit says the “verbal bullying and harassment began almost immediately.” Taunts included “Oreo,” “white girl,” “wannabe white girl,” and “black white bitch.” The lawsuit adds that she was “generally maligned” for “acting white.”
The suit is specifically directed at Richland School District 1 over the school’s apparent failure to do anything to the protect the girl, despite repeated complaints from her parents. The lawsuit also claims to have witnesses and/or video from surveillance cameras of a number of the incidents.
The lawsuit cites a news story about the school published at Quorum in June. The story alleges a total breakdown of discipline at the school due to a white principle who did not want to discipline black students.
Over the course of the 2016-17 school year, parents say discipline broke down so badly under first-year principal Brian Goins that unruly students ran wild in the halls and cursed at teachers and administrators while fights and bullying went unchecked and, parents say, unreported in an effort to keep the problems in-house. They blame a young, first-year principal, Brian Goins, whom they believe could not enforce discipline and lacked accountability, especially when he abruptly cancelled a scheduled meeting to address concerned parents and instead asked them to complete a survey online, the results of which parents were denied access.
When [concerned parents] finally got a meeting with Goins “after several attempts,” they said he seemed more sympathetic to the bullies than their victims.
“He told us how these kids come from tough backgrounds and that needs to be considered when you’re thinking about kicking a kid out of school[.]”
“I think him being white and young, there was a desire not to come down too hard on the African-American kids as much and so he gave them every chance possible,” she said. “I understand that, but you can’t have two sets of rules. You lose everyone’s respect.”
The lawsuit also references Professor Kimberly Jane Norwood and her work on “Blackthink,” or “a form of discrimination … practiced by a group of individuals . . . who judge Blackness, i.e., who decide whether a given individual is really Black.”
In 2006 Norwood published a paper that looked at the phenomenon of how “black students who attend school regularly, participate in the classroom experience … are, not uncommonly, accused of ‘acting white.’” She writes:
Black students who attend school regularly, participate in the classroom experience — by either participating in class and/or turning in homework, take “AP” classes, and who perform well on tests are, not uncommonly, accused of “acting white.” This happened to me as a child, it has happened to my children and it has happened to black youth I have interviewed throughout the country. This Article explores the practice within the black community of blacks who attack — verbally and sometimes physically — other blacks simply because the latter perform well in school. The Article explores the ironies of this attack given the history of slaves in America who were mutilated and/or murdered for trying to learn how to read and write; the incredibly high drop-out statistics illiteracy rates among black youth in public schools; and the connection between the uneducated and incarceration rates. It calls on civil rights organizations to put education at the front of its civil rights agenda. Otherwise, there soon will be precious few black, brown or poor children to educate. They mostly will be in jail.
According the lawsuit, the young girl, whose father is active duty military, is now being homeschooled.