An Oregon mother was shocked when she learned that her son was handed a racist note by three other students in school.
Jennifer Cook said that her son Christiaan Bedford, an eighth grader at Lake Oswego Junior High School, had been handed a note with the N-word on it by three white students.
“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 KGW. “It breaks my heart. It makes me feel like on some level I’ve failed my son.”
Several students told the Lake Oswego Review that the Post-It note passed to Bedford contained the words “n****r dog.”
When Cook talked to the staff at the school about the racist note, she was told that the three students had received in-school suspensions. But Cook doesn’t think that the punishment was tough enough.
“I didn’t feel that was sufficient,” she said. “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 expressed her frustration that her son doesn’t feel safe at school, where he has faced racism and heard the racial slur before.
“I feel like he should come to school and he should feel safe,” she said.
The school’s response
The Lake Oswego School District issued a statement saying that a “racial incident” had 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.”
The school principal, Sara Deboy, who Cook accuses of taking the white students’ side and not effectively addressing the racism her son faces, also issued a response.
“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,” Lake Oswego Junior High Principal Sara Deboy wrote on the school blog.
Now, the group “Respond to Racism in Lake Oswego” is planning a community meeting next week to discuss racism and how the community can respond.
See KGW’s interview with Jennifer Cooke here.