A Hamilton County, Ohio, judge has upheld a school’s one-day suspension of a 12-year-old boy because he was staring at a white female student, according to news reports. The parents of the boy sued St. Gabriel Consolidated School, a Catholic school in Glendale, Ohio, saying the suspension was unwarranted and that their son did not receive “due process”, reports Fox19.com. The boy was suspended in September 2014.
The girl’s parents had complained to the school that the boy had “intimidated” their daughter by staring at her. The boy claimed that they were having a “staring contest,” and that the girl was laughing the whole time.
The boy’s parents want the suspension erased from his record, but Judge Patrick Dinkelacker of Hamilton County dismissed their complaint Sept 30.
“I never knew she was scared because she was laughing,” the boy wrote in an apology letter shortly after the girl’s parents complained. “I understand I done the wrong thing that will never happen again. I will start to think before I do so I am not in this situation.”
But the parents of the female student complained to the school, saying she felt “fearful”, according to court documents cited by Fox19.com. WLWT.com says the female student claims the boys cornered her in a classroom closet.
Despite the fact the boy, wrote a letter of apology, he and the other boy were suspended for one day.
Candice Tolbert, the boy’s mother, told WXIX that she is hesitant to say her son’s punishment was racially motivated. But it does raise broader concerns about how black boys are treated and perceived in certain U.S. institutions.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, black boys are suspended from school at three times the rate of their white counterparts. Black students overall represent 32% to 42% of all students suspended or expelled each year, despite constituting just 16% of the pre-K through grade 12 student population across the country.
These suspensions can have more serious consequences as well. In addition to Native Americans, black students are the only racial group whose rate of school-related arrests and school referrals to law enforcement outpace their representation in the student population. Twenty-seven percent of referrals to law enforcement and 31% of arrests are for black students.
This pattern fuels the school-to-prison pipeline, the mechanism by which black students are disproportionately funneled into the criminal justice system via school-related discipline and punishment measures.
St. Gabriel Consolidated School declined request for comment, but the Archdiocese of Cincinnati released a statement to Fox19.com saying “Judge Patrick Dinkelacker listened to the plaintiff’s arguments yesterday, rejected them, and dismissed the complaint against the school. We aren’t going to comment any further on particular issues concerning our students.”
The two boys involved are black and the female student is white, but Tolbert also told Fox19.com she isn’t sure race was a factor. However, she did say she’s upset with how her son’s situation was handled.
“The same girl that accused my son of this act of perception of intimidation, aggressively poured milk on someone else’s lunch,” Tolbert tells Fox19.com “When she did that there was no penalties for that. She received nothing for that.”
The parents say there are considering appealing the judge’s decision.