The Monroe County School District is investigating a girl’s report that she was called the n-word by a student, and that another student drew a racist cartoon on a chalkboard.
“This is unbelievable,” said Jwanna Powell, whose 13-year-old daughter texted her Friday morning from Sugarloaf School to report she had been called the racist slur by a boy.
The girl said she entered the cafeteria and the boy said, “Look at that [n-word].”
Powell said the girl also said that students were making fun of George Floyd, who a jury recently found was murdered in Minneapolis by former police officer Derek Chauvin.
“The School Board has clear-cut policies regarding bullying and harassment,” Superintendent Theresa Axford said. The superintendent said she spent 30 minutes on the phone with Powell on Friday.
Axford said she did not dispute Powell’s account of the incident.
“We are going to investigate, use disciplinary procedures and protect the victim going forward,” Axford said. “The social workers are developing a plan right now.”
The Powell family lives on Ramrod Key. Powell, a medical scientist currently working in Juneau, Alaska, said she isn’t one to seek publicity but wants the public to know about the incident.
“This is my daughter. I’m going to protect my daughter,” Powell said. “This is not going to be swept under the rug. The parents need to be held accountable. I’m sure it’s learned behavior.”
She isn’t asking for the students involved to be expelled, she said.
The girl said she would like to see changes at Sugarloaf when it comes to racism by students.
“I know a lot of teachers hear what they say but all they do is tell them to hush and they don’t take any responsibility in what they’re saying,” she said.
The girl will attend school remotely by computer starting Monday.
“She’s not going back after today,” Powell said Friday of her daughter. “You’re talking about a straight-A student who has to stay home now because of this.”
Powell said in the two years the family has lived in the Keys, this is the second time they’ve experienced racism.
The first time was when they wanted to rent a house on Big Pine Key. The person who made the referral, though, reported back that the owner didn’t want the family to live there.
“He texted her back and said he couldn’t rent his house out to Black people because his neighbors would be upset,” Powell said.
“We’re leaving,” Powell said. “Honestly, I can’t put up with it. This is the last straw. I”m done.”
Powell said her family will move back to Washington state.
“I was warned prior to coming down here and I did not listen,” Powell said of the Keys. “I was told a lot of the Trumpers are down here, a lot of racism is down here. It’s not like it used to be. I just think it needs exposure. That’s the only way to stop this.”