Parent speaks out about racist bullying at CVMS, school officials respond

February 9, 2024 | 12:07 am

Updated February 9, 2024 | 12:10 am

College View Middle School | Photo by Josh Kelly

Ashley White says her daughter Addison doesn’t feel safe at College View Middle School after experiencing racist bullying in the form of both comments and actions from fellow students.

White recalled that last school year, her daughter was called slurs — including the n-word and monkey, among others — but when Addison started her 7th-grade year, things “went to another level.”

Over time, White said, Addison’s mood changed and she didn’t want to go to school anymore. When her parents asked Addison what had caused the change a month ago, White learned what some students were doing to her daughter.

“She told me about this app that the kids are using called ‘Pocket Whip’ and how kids make whips out of paper. Her father and I were devastated, and we just could not understand it,” White said.

White said she and her husband called the school the next day and began talking with a school counselor.

While the conversation had just begun, White said students learned that the school was working toward addressing the situation, and that’s when things took a turn for Addison.

“The student body somehow found out that Addison was one of the students who kind of stepped forward and let it be known what was happening. After they found out, she faced some bullying,” she said.

During conversations with school officials, White said they told her they had yet to “hear of any other issues of racism going on in the school.” 

CVMS Principal Brandon Brooks said the incident was an isolated case, not the product of a larger situation at CVMS.

“This incident does not speak for the culture of College View,” Brooks said.

However, White said she and other parents had talked about other incidents that had happened in the past. Since coming forward, White said she has also heard additional stories from other families talking about the discrimination their child has faced.

White said from her daughter’s perspective, it feels like the students don’t care about the repercussions of their actions.

“It’s almost to the point where she says that students don’t care. They don’t care that what they’re doing is hurtful, and it just continues to be a problem,” White said. “… Even Addison said when the kids (being bullied) say they’ll make a report, the students will verbally say they don’t care.”

Three weeks later, White was sent a video of a CVMS student saying, “Get back to work, n—” and using an app to mimic the sound of a whip. Owensboro Times has seen the video and has confirmed those details. 

“The video for us was confirmation that exactly what my daughter was telling me is happening at the school,” she said.

Brooks said he was made aware of the video on Monday and, immediately after, planned how to address the situation with the school.

He said what followed was a meeting amongst all staff to remind them how to handle such situations, including how to best allow students to report any incidents, to conduct a proper investigation.

Brooks assured OT that the students involved in the video received appropriate consequences for their actions, but said he cannot share what that involved due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) guidelines.

Brooks said he was not able to discuss the matters with White when the incidents first occurred due to a busy schedule when the issues were reported. Brooks said he is meeting with White on Friday to discuss the incidents and Addison’s safety. 

“I think this is a great opportunity to talk about this and remind our students about our student safety policies. That’s why we are doing the talks in the classrooms. We want to remind the students that this behavior is not accepted at College View,” Brooks said.

Likewise, White is looking at the attention of her daughter’s story as a way to talk about this and hopefully create change within the community.

“We are not trying to relive the past. We’re not trying to blame the school. We’re not trying to blame these students or their families. We just want to move forward and try to figure out a way that we can make it better and safe for her and make it safe for every student there,” White said.

Even though Addison doesn’t feel safe, White said her daughter doesn’t want to leave CVMS due to her involvement in the school. White also doesn’t feel it would be fair to Addison to leave.

“It’s like a ‘Catch-22’ for us. We don’t want to take her away from the situation when we know that she did nothing to cause it,” White said.

White said Addison tells her often how much she doesn’t feel safe at school. Now, before school, White and her daughter pray over Addison’s day to lower her anxiety.

“We try to calm her anxiety down and just try to put in positive energy that she’s going to have a good day, so her safety is concerning. We are concerned every single day,” she said.

Brooks said the CVMS administration went to each classroom on campus Thursday. They informed the students how to report an incident like this properly and reiterated the school’s safety policy and other information.

“We remind our kids to be considerate and courteous toward other students at school. Our students’ safety is the most important thing,” he said.

Brooks noted that after a couple of initial news reports about the video, some students felt unsettled on Thursday. He said while there was never any active threat, CVMS sent the following statement to families on Thursday:

Viking Family,

Our goal is to always be transparent and swift in our communications with parents when necessary at College View Middle School.

With the recent news stories featuring CVMS, students understandably have been concerned about the safety of the school today. School administrators, the school law enforcement officer, and other local law enforcement have deemed there is no credibility in any of the threats that have been made today. College View and Daviess County Public Schools have a zero-tolerance policy on any safety threats made and any individuals making a threat will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

As a means to help any students in need, additional counselors are present at school along with members from the district Mental Health Team to talk to students and guide them through healthy and safe ways of navigating their feelings or emotions.

It is in our best interest to provide a level of excellence when it comes to the safety and well being of our students and staff at College View.

Brandon Brooks, CVMS Principal”

Daviess County Public Schools also provided the following statement on the matter:

Daviess County Public Schools unequivocally condemns all forms of racism, discrimination, and bias. Every student deserves a safe and inclusive learning environment where they can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. We recognize the pain and distress that incidents of racism can cause, and we are committed to ensuring that every student feels valued, respected, and supported. 

In response to any behavioral infraction, we want to assure you that we are taking proactive measures to address the situation swiftly and comprehensively. Our first priority is the well-being and safety of our students, and we are working diligently to investigate any student behavior reports. This includes engaging with all stakeholders and implementing appropriate disciplinary actions as necessary. In the case of disciplinary action, no student information can be released per the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. 

The school staff has been informed of the student behaviors and the school safety and supervision plan has been reviewed. Students have been reminded by the administrative team of the school focus on being kind and considerate to all at all times, as well as the protocol of reporting directly to school staff or via the anonymous tip line any hateful or intolerant comments or conduct, encouraging students “If you see something, say something.” School administrative staff have met and spoken with any parent or community stakeholder reporting information of any student behavior concern. 

Furthermore, it is essential to emphasize that our school district’s core belief is centered on putting Kids First. We understand that addressing issues of racism and discrimination requires collective effort and ongoing dialogue. We encourage open communication and collaboration with parents, students, staff, and community members to ensure that all voices are heard and valued.

February 9, 2024 | 12:07 am

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