4 students in Berea charged over racial slurs

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BEREA, Ky. (WTVQ) – Four Madison Southern High School students, including some graduating seniors, have been charged with harassing communications in connection with what may have been racially motivated social media incidents involving a sophomore.

Earlier Thursday, Madison Southern Principal Brandon Watkins sent a message to the school community condemning the actions, which involved calling the student, who is African-American, a racial slur repeatedly and reporting the school district was working with police.

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“Many of you are aware of a terrible and unacceptable incident that happened on social media this week. This incident includes behavior that does not and will not be representative of our school or community. As a school and a district, it simply will NOT be tolerated. Any incident such as this, will be handled in the most serious manner.  Since being made aware of the social media incident, we have worked closely with the Berea Police Department and with those involved to be swift and just in our handling of the situation. Please be assured that the incident is being dealt with by our school administration and by the Berea Police Department. We are also aware of a previous incident in our school and want to assure our school community that the previous incident was also dealt with in a swift and just manner. We have not and we will not turn a blind eye to any issue of discrimination that arises. We ask for your continued support in resolving this matter. Please take the opportunity to talk with your children about the importance of being a good digital citizen and the importance of treating others with kindness and civility. We promise to continue to have those conversations with our students as well,” Watkins wrote.

The school did not disclose details of the incident, but police were actively investigating it Thursday, according to Capt. Kenneth Puckett of the Berea Police Department. The investigation was still ongoing after two adults and two juveniles were charged Thursday evening, he told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The sophomore student went public on Facebook with the incidents Wednesday, posting examples of the messages she’d received.

“Yesterday I experienced something that no person should ever have to experience. I’m a sophomore at Madison Southern High School where racism has always been a problem, but I never expected anything like this to happen to me,” the girl wrote.
“Earlier on in the school year I had a problem with a senior who called me the N-Word while playing kickball. I told the principal and he “dealt with it”. For the past two years I’ve been fighting with the school board. I’ve been trying to make them take racially charged “incidents” seriously. I went to a teacher when someone called me the N-Word  and the teacher told me that, “They were sure the student didn’t mean it like that”. For the past two years I have had to sit through my teachers and classmates reading the N-word out of books that the teacher chose for us to read. I told the teacher how uncomfortable this made me and she told me that it’s her class and she gets to make the ultimate decision. I went  to the principal and the superintendent about kids wearing the rebel flag and I was told “our hands are tied,” the student continued.
“All of these events reached a boiling point when I got a request on SnapChat from a Southern student. I accepted the request because I figured they had seen me around school. But then that person added me to a group chat of Madison Southern ROTC students including the kid who I had issues with before. In this group chat they called me the N-Word multiple times. And made fun of me and my willingness to speak up for what’s right. This was a premeditated attack on me by people I had never even spoken to nor heard of. They say since they’re seniors there’s nothing I can do about it. But I can use my voice. The most powerful weapon God gave me,” she continued
“I believe that this whole encounter could have been avoided if my school would have been more serious about the way they deal with these situations. We need more than just a slap on the wrist when dealing with racism. All of these seniors will still be graduating from Madison Southern High School.  I won’t stop bringing attention to these situations. Please share this to help bring awareness to this situation as we pursue further legal action. Help me untie their hands,” she concluded.