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Feds Punish Albany Schools for Racial Bullying Incident
ALBANY - An extreme case of bullying, one that the Albany City School District handled poorly according to the U.S. Department of Education. A biracial student says her classmates mockingly wore Ku Klux Klan hoods, asked how much her parents paid to adopt her and threatened to beat her up if she told on them. The bullying apparently when on for months and when the 8th graders parents asked for help from the principal at Hackett Middle School, the district decided it was best to remove her from the building instead of the bullies.
The girl was moved up
to 9th grade, three months early but the whole ordeal was very
trying on her. “Two kids brought in a KKK hood and wore it in the
school in front of an audience of kids,” the girl’s mother Joan Curcio tells
CBS6. “It was hurtful and shocking what
she went through,” says Henri Williams, the girl’s father.
Curcio and Williams
were not happy with how the principal at Hackett handled the situation or how
the superintendent followed-up, so they filed a complaint with the U.S.
Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
The agency investigated and found that the Albany School District inappropriately
handled the incident and now the district must follow a very specific plan of
action to help prevent situations like this in the future.
“From this point forward, there are things that we have to do which include staff training, character education for our students, providing support for that specific student,” Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard tells CBS6. She is currently the Superintendent of the Albany City School District but was not at the time of the alleged bullying.
Vanden Wyngaard says the students who were accused of bullying were punished but perhaps not as severely as they should have been. A New York State Law allows parents of the perpetrator to question the victim and witnesses when their children are accused. Curcio and Williams did not allow their daughter to take part in any such meeting. “If you wave that, then the alleged perpetrator has limited disciplinary action because that next step isn't taken,” says Vanden Wyngaard.
In any event, the
superintendent says she is taking the decision very seriously, “these type of situations just won't be tolerated and
if our students don't understand that, we will help them understand that
because that's just not how we do business it's not what we do in Albany,” she says.
“I want to be hopeful, we believe these are good solutions but they need to be implemented,” Williams says of the U.S. Department of Education’s directive. He and his wife filed that complaint months ago because they want to be an example for other parents who have children who have or are being bullied. “Unless other parents in the community know that they have rights when their kids are harassed and that the district need to be held accountable for harassment cases then it doesn't help and that's why we've come forward at this point,” Curcio says.
The girl is now finishing up her sophomore year at Albany High School. The district says it has arraigned her schedule, locker placement, gym and lunch times in a way that gives her the most minimal chance of coming into contact with the bullies who are also in high school now.