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Greendale HS student says she was suspended for confronting someone who called her the N-word

Posted: 1:13 PM, Oct 23, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-23 15:15:10-04

Parents and students say Greendale High School has an issue with race.

At a press conference in front of the school Monday afternoon, the students held hands and told of a recent event that caused them to speak out.

Chanese Knox says she was suspended recently for verbally confronting another student who called her the N-word in the hallway.

“They said I broke disorderly conduct for confronting her. They said to walk away when I thought I was in the right in confronting her about the N-word. It should not be said to anyone at any time, anywhere,” said Knox.

“What is she supposed to do when someone has gone to her more than once and said racial slurs? How is she supposed to react? How would you react?” said Knox’s mother Dianna Merritt.

TODAY'S TMJ4 was sent two statements regarding this story:

Statement Read by Dr. Gary Kiltz, Superintendent of Greendale Schools, at the Board of Education Meeting on October 22, 2018

I want to thank those in attendance for their advocacy and support of our students and ensuring that we have safe learning environments for all students who attend our schools.  The social and emotional health of our school community is an important component of our overall safety and a priority for our school district. I see this as a great opportunity for our students, parents, and community to engage in healthy conversation about race, equity, and opportunities for all students.  

Two years ago, the District engaged in a visioning and strategic planning process.  At that time, the data showed the need to focus and address equity across our district.  As a result, our District has been involved in a regional collaborative with other districts on closing achievement gaps.  Teams across the District have been putting in place strategies to increase access, opportunity and engagement for all students regardless of race, class, or disability.  

Last year, the District organized students at the middle school and high school to create the council for the advocacy and appreciation of diversity.  Students at both levels did activities to raise awareness of the diversity in our schools and to promote a culture of appreciation and respect. The council will continue to meet this year to advance activities that build on the success of last year.  Students and staff have been meeting over the past year to focus on making sure all students feel sense of belonging and purpose in our schools.

Although there are many inaccuracies in the recent reports in the media regarding a student matter, this situation is leading us to a healthy dialogue with individuals who have a vested interest in Greendale High School and the community. As we meet with these community partners, I am hoping we can build in opportunities for students, parents, and the community to engage in civil discourse about race, discrimination, bias, and opportunities for our students.  While not perfect, we are working to improve and the District will use this as a learning opportunity for ourselves, our students, and our community.

Continuously creating and maintaining a positive school climate is a responsibility of everyone in our schools, and together we will listen, learn, and improve that experience for all of our students.

I appreciate the community’s continued support of Greendale Schools!

Knox and others went in front of the Greendale School Board Meeting and asked that her suspension be overturned and that the district offer a plan to combat racism.

“It’s sickening, it is, it’s really sicking that we have to do all of this just to get your attention,” said student Akayla Raasch.

District Superintendent Dr. Gary Kiltz said the students involved have been counseled and that recent events have opened the door for a much-needed conversation.

“I see this as a great opportunity for our students, parents, and community to engage in healthy conversation about race, equity, and opportunities for all students” said Klitz.

And a statement from Dr. Gary Kiltz, Superintendent of Greendale Schools:

Greendale Schools is committed to the safety and well-being of all students. District administration takes every student, family and staff concern seriously and investigates all matters brought to our attention. Threats, hate speech and harassment have no place in our school community.

In accordance with Federal student privacy laws, we are not able to provide specifics regarding the incident and student consequences referenced. We can tell you that the students involved in this situation have been counseled and appropriate school actions have been taken in accordance with District practice.  

School administration continues to offer to work with the student and her mother to ensure she feels safe at school. We take these concerns very seriously and will continue to investigate the matters raised.

Proactive steps are being taken to improve sense of belonging, engagement, and voice for all Greendale students. These include a student council for the advocacy of appreciation and respect for diversity, and a District-wide equity committee developing strategies to address opportunity, participation, and achievement gaps.

Students and staff have been meeting over the past year to focus on making sure all students feel sense of belonging and purpose in our schools.

While not perfect, we are working to improve. The District is embracing this community conversation around race and use this as a learning opportunity for ourselves, our students, and our community.