During my conversation on Monday, I had the opportunity to speak with Linyka and Shaun, the parents of a 15-year-old female student who was suspended from Shawnee Mission East High School. Their daughter had experienced a distressing incident where she was repeatedly punched in the face by a male classmate. As a result of this one-sided altercation, the young girl suffered a broken nose, a swollen jaw, a cut lip, scratches on her face, and other injuries.
The girl’s family was not in agreement with the five-day suspension she received on November 15th. They were expecting her to return to campus on Wednesday.
As the girl in this case is a potential victim of a crime, her parents have filed a report with the Prairie Village Police Department. To maintain their privacy, I will refer to the parents by their first names. In order to protect the child’s identity, I will not mention her name at all.
Linyka, Shaun, and their daughter, residents of Mission, belong to the Black community. The incident involves an unidentified white male student. The couple is deeply concerned about their daughter’s alleged assault, and rightfully so.
The family informed me that they are urging authorities to take legal action against the boy who pushed and hit their daughter. Fortunately, their request was granted on Wednesday, which is a positive development.
A 15-year-old male student is facing charges as a juvenile in Johnson County District Court for felony aggravated battery. In another case from the summer, he has also been charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and battery.
After witnessing the video footage of the altercation at East, it is understandable why Linyka and Shaun decided to involve law enforcement. The male student involved in the incident was clearly the instigator, starting the conflict by verbally abusing the girl, using a racial slur, and physically pushing her.
According to the code of conduct policy in the Shawnee Mission student handbook, there are consequences for engaging in fights at school. However, it is important to consider the context. Shouldn’t we take into account the fact that the girl was defending herself and others against racism at school?
The girl expressed her pride in standing up for a classmate who was being referred to as a slave by another student. Despite not knowing the boy personally and having no connection to a previous conversation she had with a white female student about racist language, she felt compelled to take a stand.
Video of altercation shows boy the aggressor
The attack on the girl is strongly believed by her family to be racially motivated. When watching the cellphone footage of the fight, it becomes evident that it would be difficult to argue otherwise.
Students react with curiosity, asking, “Who said that?”
The boy utters, “Me, (n-word) me,” as he confronts the girl in the hallway. Without hesitation, he discards his belongings and advances towards her. In the midst of their impending encounter, his racist diatribe persists.
“What?” he exclaims. “What? What the hell what?” He shoves the girl. “What?” he demands.
After being provoked, the girl retaliates by throwing a punch, managing to land a hit on the boy. However, her strike barely causes any harm. This sparks a fierce exchange of blows between the two students. Eventually, the male student gains the upper hand and repeatedly strikes the girl in the face.
“He was much larger and taller than me,” she explained. “I had to defend myself against him.”
Shawnee Mission’s officials informed me that their anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy does not explicitly outline the consequences for racially-motivated violence. Perhaps, in order to prevent any future occurrences of such unprovoked acts of violence, it should.
Every student should be safeguarded against racial harassment or bullying within the school premises.
The school’s response to the boy’s use of a racial slur and involvement in a physical altercation with the girl remains undisclosed. District officials, in accordance with student privacy regulations, were unable to provide details on the disciplinary actions taken against the individual students.
Is there ever a situation where it is acceptable for a young man to use the n-word not once, but twice, and then proceed to physically assault a girl by shoving her and punching her in the face? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no. However, it appears that Shawnee Mission East officials may have a different perspective on the matter.
Linyka and Shaun’s daughter, a sophomore at Shawnee Mission East in Prairie Village, faced a five-day suspension for bravely confronting hate.
It is truly disappointing that school leaders have failed to protect all children under their care. Their failure to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for every student is disheartening.
The Shawnee Mission School Board of Education needs to address the unfairness of the girl’s suspension, as it could potentially affect her plans for higher education.
It doesn’t make logical sense to impose a penalty in such a situation. Why should a female student be penalized for defending herself against a male student who is much bigger and stronger than her?
Students: Racial slurs common, not punished
Earlier this week, a group of minority students from Shawnee Mission East organized a walkout to draw attention to the issues of racism within the school. On November 18, I had the opportunity to meet with some of these students at a local coffee shop in Prairie Village.
Black and Hispanic students have expressed their grievances about the unchecked use of racial slurs by white students. According to them, school authorities are fully aware of the students’ concerns regarding the existence of a hostile and discriminatory learning environment.
According to the group, there has been no action taken yet. They are calling for more stringent policies and tougher penalties for hate speech.
Building leaders’ inaction resulted in the altercation between the white male student and the girl, according to their account. They took it upon themselves to raise awareness about racism at Shawnee Mission East. The girl mentioned that their suspended classmate was grateful for the support they received.
She expressed her pride in herself and her fellow students for making the right choices.
Linyka and Shaun’s daughter expressed that she does not have any regrets about standing up against racist behavior at school. According to her, she engaged in self-defense during the altercation with the boy. It is difficult to dispute her claim.
“I believe I made the correct decision,” she stated firmly. “I stand by my actions and would not alter a single thing. He initiated physical contact with me, which was completely unacceptable. I was unjustly suspended without any valid reason.”
Shawnee Mission East leaders should take stronger measures to ensure the safety and well-being of all students. It is essential that no student faces punishment for speaking out against racism.