Official Parent & Student Letter to WCS Board of Education & Superintendent Mike Looney
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Dear Dr. Looney and Williamson County Schools Board of Education:
We are Parent and Student Members of Williamson County Schools joining together to address the horrifying incident which occurred on Friday January 26th when Lauren Williams, a sixteen year old African American girl was attacked and assaulted in the hallway and girls’ bathroom at Franklin High School by a group of White students who ripped off her wig and then continued to attack her in a bathroom stall. The perpetrators video-taped the entire attack, then posted it on social media for the whole world to see. The attack stemmed from a racist five dollar bet and caused trauma, humiliation and injury to Lauren. The perpetrators only received as punishment, a pitiful and disappointing in-school-suspension, and Lauren continues to be harassed, threatened, and bullied.
The purposes of this letter are:
1) To demand Williamson County Schools impose immediate disciplinary actions to the fullest extent provided under Tennessee Law and WCS Board of Education Policies against the perpetrators of this attack;
2) To demand that Williamson County Schools implement district-wide, long-term programs designed to educate its students about racism and cultural awareness.
Dr. Looney, you named this incident “bullying” in a recent Twitter post. We agree, a basic review of the incident yields facts which easily satisfy Tennessee state law and WCSBOE “bullying” classifications. However, such a limited review serves to dismiss the many dangerous layers of abuse which characterize the harm inflicted on Lauren Williams, several of which stem from racist intentions, all of which constitute the crime of assault.
In addition, we are aware that these students’ acts against Lauren Williams violate State of Tennessee Harassment laws, as well as WCS Policies pertaining to harmful acts using Instruments on and off school grounds (in this case smart phones), and on-campus social media use.
As members of this community we urge you to thoroughly investigate the details of this incident in all its layers, including the ones which indicate this borders on a hate crime by a group of White students, initiated by males against a sole female student who is Black.
We also call on you to examine the details of the specific harm Lauren has suffered and will continue to suffer- both the short and long-term physical and emotional damage, as well as the fear inflicted on parents and students of color across Williamson County and the United States where news of this incident has reached.
We further urge you to see to it that Williamson County Schools assigns the student perpetrators the maximum punishment provided under Tennessee law and WCS policies.
Finally, we insist that you take immediate action to implement programs in all of Williamson County Schools which will provide routine education on racial justice, cultural awareness, diversity friendliness, and corresponding behavioral expectations of students and teachers.
As you have certainly heard Lauren’s mother state in her media interview, Williamson County families have suffered enough of the district’s inaction in regards to bullying by both students and teachers. Families of color specifically, currently have no recourse for race-related bullying and harm. As minorities in this county we feel unsupported and unprotected against race-related bullying. At a fundamental level we feel ignored as to the district's interest in cultivating school environments which are supportive of our diversity.
Year after year, WCS members have seen enough of the lack of investment into social justice, cultural awareness and diversity education. We have waited long enough for its curriculum and classroom dialogues to so much as mention even the most well-known racial justice events of our country, including the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
While you take the time to consider this overall gap in WCS’s commitment diversity awareness and corresponding educational programs, and to contemplate the specific issue at hand - the assault of Lauren Williams, please note the chronic and historic discrimination and exploitation our country has faced, and still today faces, especially against persons who are Black and against women.
Please also note the heightened sensitivity this calls for considering our position as a public school in the South, and the discrimination and segregation which accompanies our past and present history to that end.
It is time for Williamson County Schools to take measurable action against bullying and to raise its standard of inclusivity to the level of distinction it achieves in academic test scores. A continued failure to invest in these concerns at a time when our country is seeing a rapid divide, especially in the name of race, will most certainly produce grave consequences including more incidents like the one at hand.
The issues at stake here are not unique to Franklin High or to Williamson County Schools. Many of us moved to this County specifically seeking quality education for our children. This is an opportunity for our district to model how to address and put a stop to the racist, sexist violence on display here. Failure to address these issues will let all of Williamson County’s students of color and the general student population know their bodily integrity is open to assault by students who will suffer no repercussions even when there is video evidence.
All children need to know that they are safe at school, that their bodies are not to be violated by other students or staff, and that the administration takes seriously reports of bullying, harassment, abuse with instruments, social media and most especially assault. That reassurance can not be limited to a single formal statement, but must be actively borne out with appropriate punishments and very clear and repeated practical educational materials directed at every age level.
Parent and Student Members of Williamson County Schools
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