Rope Burns Around This 12-Year-Old Black Girl's Neck Are Clearly Not an 'Accident'

ropeAs a mother, I can think of few things more horrible than seeing my sixth grader come home from a field trip with a rope burn around her neck from being dragged to the ground by three classmates, except, perhaps, being told by my child's school that what happened was nothing more than an "accident" when it clearly seems anything but. Sadly, that's what happened recently to a young black girl in Waco, Texas -- and her parents are suing her school for $3 million, claiming that the incident was racially motivated and that the school did nothing to stop it.

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The girl, who is identified only as K.P. in court papers, was on an overnight outing with her class from the (mostly white) Live Oak Classical School in Waco this past April when the alleged attack occurred (K.P. was 12 years old at the time). According to the lawsuit, it happened at a basket swing hanging from a tree with a rope used for pulling the swing higher. K.P. said she'd been pulling on the rope but got tired and stepped to the side; that's when her classmates looped the rope around her neck and "violently jerked" her to the ground. As K.P. told the Dallas Morning News, "When it got around my neck, no one helped me, so I had to pull it off by myself."

As one might expect from such a violent act, the resulting injury was pretty brutal -- in a New York Times interview, K.P.'s mother Sandy Rougely said it "looked like somebody ripped my daughter’s neck off and stitched it back together." The burn was bad enough that Rougely took her daughter to the emergency room as soon as she got home (the police were also called), where she was treated for "severe rope burns" -- but when K.P. had told a chaperone on the trip what happened, all the chaperone did was give her Motrin and put Vaseline on the burn.  

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Why?! Why, why?? If something like that happened to my kid on a field trip -- even if it was an actual, legitimate accident -- and I wasn't notified immediately, I would be livid. Beyond livid! Why didn't the administrators on this trip make sure something more was done to help K.P.? Why didn't they tell her parents?? What would you do if you saw a rope burn like this on a child's neck??

According to the girl's lawyer, Levi G. McCathern II, the reason why administrators failed to tell the girl's parents is both obvious and ominous: The omission "reeks of race."  

And while the school of course vehemently denies this (its official story involves the rope being suddenly let go of and consequently whipping past K.P. and hitting her in the neck), K.P.'s account sounds all too plausible, especially considering this wasn't the first time she experienced bullying from her classmates -- she'd previously been pushed to the ground, kicked and shoved by classmates, according to Rougely, incidents which K.P. herself was blamed for.

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It's just so sick and sad. Kids aren't born racists. The notion that a trio of sixth graders would do something so terrible to a kid in their class for any reason, let alone the color of her skin, proves that bigotry is a sickness our society is passing on to the next generation, and that's just tragic. It's not fair to the kids who are targeted, it's not fair to the kids who are carrying on their parents' tradition of hatred. It's not fair to anyone. And it needs to stop before one more life is warped and wasted for utterly no reason at all.

Unfortunately, K.P.'s life has already been forever altered. Not only will she never forget what happened to her, but her immediate future is even being affected, as her mother pulled her out of school (understandably!) so that she could continue her studies at home, where horrible people aren't going to try to strangle her with a freaking rope. 

Lawyers for both the school and K.P. are investigating the situation, as is the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, and I can only hope that the outcome is a windfall of much-deserved compensation for this family. If the school really did cover this up, it deserves to pay through the nose -- and let its punishment act as a cautionary tale to other bigoted institutions everywhere.

 

Image via Moyan Brenn/Flickr

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