On Jan. 19, 2007, then-9-year-old Justin Abraham says he was attacked on the playground of Glenview Elementary, a predominantly black school in the North Little Rock School District. By the account of Justin's mother, a 10-year-old white boy kicked Justin in the head and stomped him as he lay on the ground. The aggressor then twisted Justin's left arm back and sat on it, snapping both his radius and ulna bones. Justin was taken to the hospital; a few days later, doctors performed surgery, placing a titanium steel plate and four screws into his arm. Justin had to miss three weeks of school.
Justin, who is of African-American, German, Japanese, Hispanic, Hawaiian and Hungarian Jewish descent, says he has been the victim of abuse since at least the second grade, when he first remembers hearing his classmates' shouts of “half-breed.” All together, his mother Shanna McCoy says, Justin has had to visit the emergency room four times. McCoy, who sees apathy about the incidents on the part of school administrators, has taken her case to court. School officials have mostly declined comment.
McCoy has sued the North Little Rock School District, Glenview Elementary and the members of the North Little Rock School Board in Pulaski Circuit Court. Trial is set for May 5.
McCoy said that when she suggested to Glenview's principal, Carol Thornton, that the three-day suspension of the boy who broke Justin's arm was too light, Thornton told McCoy she should be grateful Justin was not suspended as well — that “he was lucky all he got was just his arm broken.” McCoy also recalls one of Justin teacher's suggesting the boy act “more like Condoleezza Rice … be like other blacks and stop complaining so much” about his treatment.
McCoy certainly hasn't heeded advice not to complain. Two months after Justin's arm was broken, McCoy was a guest on the “Montel Williams” television show, in an episode entitled “Dangers in Our School.” McCoy said her appearance proved disastrous for her son. “After the show, they started suspending my child every week,” says McCoy.
Trouble followed Justin when he moved from Glenview to Seventh Street Elementary in October last year, according to McCoy. She said he was warned his first day at school by vice principal Alan Pittington, who reportedly said, “You're not gonna come over here and make us look bad.”
Physical incidents continued at Seventh Street, she says: Justin came home with black eyes and bruised cheeks, and at one point was cut on his forehead after a child attempted to stab him with a pencil, his mother said.
North Little Rock Superintendent Kenneth Kirspel declined to discuss McCoy's accusations. In an e-mail message, he wrote, “Principals talk with all involved when incidents occur or when concerns are expressed by students or parents. I am confident the administrators at both schools investigated the allegations and that appropriate disciplinary actions (if warranted) were taken by the principals.”
Requests for comment from Thornton and Pittington were directed to Paul Blume, the district's in-house council. Blume would not comment, except to say, “I don't have any doubt that there was some friction between the minor plaintiff and another student.” Blume indicated he will be filing a motion for summary judgment, saying the district is immune from negligence liability.
Justin, McCoy said, also got ugly e-mail, calling him a “mixed punk.” She said she asked the school for help, but was told there was nothing administrators could do about “cyber-bullying.”
McCoy says she feels betrayed by school officials and also at a loss to explain the abuse towards her son. He is getting therapy, she said.
This year, Justin is enrolled in fifth grade at Meadowpark Elementary. McCoy says the bullying continues.
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