drehodges

The N-word was written on one of the doors of the Fairmont Senior High School in Fairmont, W. Va., according to a parent at the school. (Photo by Romelia Hodeges)

A West Virginia high school student’s mother said that her son is the victim of racial slurs and cyberbullying at the hands of his lacrosse team. The teen, who the AFRO is not naming because he is a minor, is a student at Fairmont Senior High School.

Romelia Hodges told the AFRO her son was allegedly taunted in an Instagram group message titled “Damned Niggers.” According to Hodges, pictures of her son were accompanied by captions like “Shut up you ape” and “I’ll send you back to the cotton field.” Hodges said there were 14-15 students involved in the group.

“He thought this was his team, his band of brother,” Hodges told the AFRO. “To see that they have done something like this to this day he can’t wrap his head around it.”

The school, for its part, said they were looking into the alleged incident. “It’s still an ongoing investigation,” Assistant Superintendent Andy Neptune told the AFRO. He said the administration is withholding comment until the results of the investigation are completed.  Superintendent Gary Price said, in an email to the AFRO, “The alleged incidents are still under review.”

According to Hodges, her son has faced a series of racially insensitive incidents since April. In addition to the Instagram group, she said racial slurs were yelled at her son in a class as well as written next to his name on the band’s attendance roster. Hodges claims that these incidents have caused her son to pass out and miss class. Her son suffers from a rare blood disorder and travels with a nurse. He occasionally needs to use an oxygen tank, especially during times of stress.

In an interview with the Dominion Post, Tony Stingo, the lacrosse coach for the school, downplayed the alleged incident. “From what I understand, there was some inappropriate discussion and inappropriate language, but nothing directed at her son, just inappropriate and unfortunate behavior,” he said. “I just know that our program doesn’t nor has it ever condoned nor do I or have I ever condoned any kind or racism or hatred-based behavior.” Stingo declined to respond to requests for comment from the AFRO.

“Clearly the offenders do not feel that they will be held accountable for their actions, and so they feel comfortable with their mistreatment of this student because they don’t think anything will happen with them,” said Stephen Tillet, president of the Anne Arundel, Md. branch of the NAACP, told the AFRO “That’s why schools need to have prevention in place.”

Tillet also said that schools need to provide a more accepting environment for minority children. “Some of our kids feel that they are in fairly hostile and or unwelcoming environments…almost like you don’t exist to the extent that we are tolerated. You don’t tolerate, you welcome, you embrace, you interact respectfully,” said Tillet.

Hodges’ son is doing well academically and aspires to be an engineer, Hodges said. He works with robotics after school, plays several instruments and has a 4.0 GPA.

In addition to the cyberbullying and yelling of racial slurs, Hodges’ said that on June 8, someone wrote the word “nigger” on one of the school’s doors. Although Hodges said that the school cleaned off the derogatory language, she said that she has not received a statement from the school or an apology from any students, parents or staff who may have been aware of the incident.