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District, parents clash over fight at Mitchell caught on video

District, parents clash over fight at Mitchell caught on video

Mitchell Middle and Elementary

Mitchell Middle School, 2701 Drexel Ave., was the location of a March 15 altercation. 

RACINE — The Racine Unified School District says it has thoroughly investigated an incident at Mitchell Middle School, but the parents of a student injured in the altercation are not satisfied.

The family of a seventh-grader who was involved in the altercation and their Milwaukee lawyer, Christopher Stawski, say that during the incident a Mitchell teacher directed a racial slur at their son.

The district adamantly denies this.

“Neither the video nor any of the statements taken from those involved (including the police report) support the claims being made,” stated Unified spokeswoman Stacy Tapp. “And there is no evidence to support the claim that the teacher used a racial slur.”

A video of the incident was provided to The Journal Times by the family of the student involved, with footage that seems to show two black students in a fight that is broken up by white adults.

The video is blurry, making it difficult to clearly identify the people involved.

The video does not show the entire altercation, but at one point a student with long hair and red shoes runs after another student, with arms swinging. The other student, who has short hair and is wearing black, seems to fight back, as adults attempt to break up the fight. The family who has hired the lawyer says the boy with the short hair is their son. The student with short hair falls to the floor with a teacher on top of him, while the student with long hair continues to swing his arms in the general direction of the other student.

The family and Stawski allege that as the teacher and student fall to the ground, the teacher says, “Boy (N-word) you need some more work. I’m sick of you guys.”

While Stawski and the student’s family say that the teacher directed the slur at their son, it is unclear from the video who was speaking. While the audio is garbled, what sounds like a racial slur is audible as the student’s body falls toward the floor.

The family also contends that the teacher forced their son to the ground and then pushed his head to the floor, causing a knot on his head and possible concussion.

“The conduct of the teacher is tremendously inappropriate,” Stawski said.

The district immediately and thoroughly investigated the incident, Tapp stated. Based on the investigation, the district believes that the teachers involved were acting to support the student and staff safety.

The investigation involved the Racine Police Department and included statements from students and staff who were involved as well as witness and video evidence.

This incident at Mitchell comes after allegations earlier this school year by parents and teachers that the hallways at the school were out of control and that the environment was generally unsafe. Since then, the district and school leaders have been working to turn things around at the school.

“Significant progress is being made and this one unfortunate situation should not reflect on the hard work of the staff, students and families to create a positive learning environment at Mitchell,” Tapp stated.

According to the family, the student was suspended for five days following the incident, and they believe the other student involved, also a seventh-grader, was suspended for the same amount of time.

Quentin Bolton, father of the student, claims that his son had the symptoms of a concussion when he came home from school on March 15, and was taken to the emergency room to be evaluated.

“He was shocked, scared, upset,” Bolton said.

Stawski sent a letter Monday to Mitchell Principal Demetri Beekman and Unified Superintendent Eric Gallien, asking for an investigation into the incident and for the student to be kept safe from further assaults at the school. The family says that their son has been the victim of bullying since he started school at Mitchell in the fall.

Tapp stated that it’s uncertain whether or not the video has been doctored.

“We are extremely saddened that anyone would make these accusations against a teacher who made every effort to protect his students and colleagues,” she stated.

Stawski said any further action on the part of the family will depend on Racine Unified’s response to its letter. The district is in the process of working with its legal counsel to determine its response.

Stawski added that he would not rule out legal action as a possibility.

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Caitlin Sievers covers education in Racine County with a primary focus on Racine Unified School District. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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