Parents of two Horizon Christian School students said the school was aware of racist comments and threats made against their children throughout the school year, and that the school admitted to them it made mistakes and had incorrect information in a statement released to parents.
Alexander Wortham, the father of Imani, and Dominique Duncan, the mother of LaShantí, said their daughters have been the targets of racist threats made over the course of the school year by multiple people at Horizon Christian, including students and a teacher who played along with a threat. Duncan said her daughter had multiple classes with the accused student, who started talking about “world domination” in October and said he would kill her “swiftly.” According to Duncan, a teacher joined in by asking what the student would do to “this person” referencing her daughter. Wortham said the student made a threat on his daughter’s life in late November or early December. The school suspended the accused student Dec. 3 and allowed him back Dec 10.
In its statement, the school laid out details in a timeline from Dec. 3 to Dec. 14, including information about when parents contacted the school and how it made certain decisions. But Wortham and Duncan disagreed with the school’s account, and Wortham said the school acknowledged mistakes during a Dec. 17 meeting with parents and school administrators. He said the accused student’s parents were supposed to be there, but they had to back out for an unspecified reason.
The school’s statement said threats “were not reported by any students at the time of the alleged occurrence,” but both parents said the girls went to Wesley Faust, assistant head of the school, to report an incident in which a group of students referenced the Ku Klux Klan. That grew into a larger discussion about racist comments. Wortham said Faust then called the accused student who threatened his daughter’s life into his office, but a group of students overheard his daughter’s name and harassed her further. According to Wortham, the school acknowledged at the meeting the girls reported their incidents to Faust.
Duncan said her daughter went to a teacher first to report the growing number of incidents, but it wasn’t clear if the school acknowledged that in the meeting. The school’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wortham said the three-hour meeting was “pointless.” The school said in its statement the accused student has Asperger’s Syndrome, and a licensed mental health counselor concluded after an evaluation the student made no “direct threat.” That’s why the school allowed the student to go back Dec. 10. A mental health counselor was also at the meeting, according to Wortham, to describe traits associated with Asperger’s Syndrome.
“It was another slap in the face,” he said. “Nothing got resolved. Our daughters are still not in school. Last night’s conversation was meant for us to feel sorry for the kid’s condition, but nobody is worried about our kids.”
Both parents are frustrated by what they see as an attempt by Horizon Christian to walk around racism by excusing it with a medical condition.
“If they clearly made statements like that and showed that type of behavior,” Duncan said of the accused student, “then I don’t believe that’s the right kind of environment for them at that point.”
The parents said these latest incidents were just an escalation of what was already happening in the school. Along with comments about the KKK and world domination and life-threatening remarks, Wortham said he met with the school before when a teacher accused the two girls of causing “drama” during after-school care, even though he said the girls were “keeping to themselves.”
Most concerning to Duncan and Wortham was the threat of even more violence. They both said they researched recent school shootings around the country and believed the warning signs seemed familiar to what their daughters experienced.
“You don’t want to go to work and send your child to school without knowing what’s going to happen,” Duncan said. “[The student] needs help. It’s not healthy for him to be in that environment and making statements like that.”
Wortham said he doesn’t know what his next step will be, but he’s at least considering legal action. Both parents said their daughters have not returned to school, and they are considering pulling them out of Horizon Christian altogether.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.