A ninth-grade student in western Wisconsin has been suspended for placing “some kind of KKK symbol” and a macramé noose on a black student’s desk.
Baldwin-Woodville High School Principal Eric Russell suspended the boy, who is white, on Dec. 14 after he fessed up to perpetrating the racist act, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“They were in an art class,” Russell told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. “These two small objects were placed before this individual. The young man said it was done as a joke.”
The 15-year-old recipient of the items was not amused. She is a foster child, and one of just three black students at the 450-student school located about 40 miles east of the Twin Cities.
After school, the girl told her foster mother, Sarah Hitzeman, about the incident. Hitzeman notified Russell the next day.
“She has been experiencing racial comments since joining our family her eighth-grade year,” Hitzeman said, according to the Star Tribune. “Her freshman year started out with students calling her ‘Big Mocha’ and making fun of her hair and breasts.”
According to Hitzeman, school officials at first decided to give the boy a single day of in-school suspension. The punishment was amplified, she said, only after a NAACP representative contacted the school on her behalf.
Hitzeman said that students at the school have condemned her foster daughter, telling her she wrongly overreacted to a prank. She wants the school to take a stand against harassment.
“To have a school that has no tolerance for bullying but a lot of tolerance for racial issues isn’t right,” Hitzeman told the Star Tribune. “I want my daughter to understand this isn’t okay, and she doesn’t have to accept it.”
Principal Russell told the Star Tribune that he has prescribed a more severe suspension since the beginning of winter break. However, he would not how long the suspension will last or provide further details.
He described the boy’s actions as “absolutely not acceptable behavior.”
Russell also advised the boy’s parents of the incident. They were “upset, shocked.”
School officials also notified the Baldwin police about the incident. “I believe no charges have been filed at this time,” he said, according to the Star Tribune.
It is unclear what criminal charges could be filed.
The neighboring hamlets of Baldwin and Woodville are approximately 96 percent white. Hispanics constitute the largest minority population in Baldwin.