A high school student in Birmingham, Mich. was recently charged with ethnic intimidation after he admitted spray painting racist messages and threats about Blacks on a boy’s bathroom wall.
But students and school officials are perplexed about the crime because the boy himself is African American.
According to CBS Detroit Affiliate WWJ, 18-year-old Courtney Isaiah Thomas appeared in a district court in Bloomfield Township, Mich. on May 18. The student was charged after he confessed to writing hateful messages on a bathroom wall in Seaholm High School. The graffiti emblazoned on the wall reportedly listed the names of five African American students, and read: “ should be lynched I’m going to kill them.”
School administrators reported that other messages of hate were strewn throughout the school. According to Fox Detroit affiliate WJBK, notes were anonymously put in Black students and teachers’ mailboxes and lockers. While these messages were found the same time as the bathroom incident, authorities have not named Thomas as the culprit for this crime.
Wendy Barnwell, the student’s attorney said in court that her client was victimized by bullying in the past, which may have sparked his recent actions.
“He’s been bullied, he’s a victim,” Barnwell explained, according to WWJ. “Right now, he’s under a lot of pressure.”
Barnwell also explained that in December, another student reportedly photo-shopped a picture of Thomas in a racially offensive way, according to Michigan’s Observer and Eccentric newspaper. Though the student was suspended, no criminal charges were brought against him.
But Birmingham School District spokeswoman Marcia Wikinson countered Barnwell’s claims and told the Observer and Eccentric that the two incidences were different because no threats were made in the initial situation.
Judge Diane D’Agostini released Thomas on a $20,000 personal bond, forcing him to be confined in his house aside from medical appointments and work.
A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for May 24. Though the student is indefinitely suspended from school, he’s still set to graduate next month.