NOKESVILLE, Va. - A Northern Virginia family says their 14-year-old daughter was targeted by bullies for wearing her natural hair to school.
Video of the incident was first posted on Snapchat and then on Facebook. Since then, there have been more than a million views of the video.
It all happened at Brentsville District High School in Nokesville on Sept. 22. The cell phone recording shows a white female ninth grade student throwing a pencil like a dart into the natural hair of an African American student.
“They thought it was funny to find a girl who has hair that is not like theirs and maybe they thought it was funny to try to see if something was going to stick in her hair,” said Darlene Taylor, the mother of the African American student.
A Prince William County Public Schools spokesperson said in a statement:
In reference to the incident, it is deeply concerning. Cultural diversity is respected and celebrated in PWCS. This behavior is not condoned in any way and the PWCS "Code of Behavior" attests to that. In light of the fact that student privacy must be protected, administrators are not at liberty to speak directly to the issue of how the school addressed this incident. There is not any way to present both sides publicly. Additionally, discipline issues are confidential and cannot be discussed.
Taylor agrees with the school district.
“My daughter was doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing,” said the mother. “She was doing her work. When they posted the video, they were supposed to be working.”
Taylor and her husband decided to contact the school as soon as they saw the video.
“We emailed the principal and we waited for a response,” Taylor said. “She did respond on Sunday saying that she saw what happened and that they would talk to my daughter on Monday.”
Taylor says after that initial exchange, there was radio silence from Brentsville District High School’s administrators for more than a week. That is when she reached out to the school's principal again and learned the student seen on video using the projectile received a slap on the wrist.
“They told her to apologize, and then the teacher will at some point move the students around the classroom,” said Taylor.
She also added, “The message here is to learn how to treat people even if they don't look like you.”
The school district says administrators are not at liberty to speak directly to the issue of how the school addressed this incident, saying discipline issues are confidential and cannot be discussed.
Taylor says the incident also happened twice before the video was posted on social media.
An attorney representing the other girl who threw the pencil says that her actions were not racially motivated or bullying.
Brentsville District High School principal Katherine Meints posted a letter on the school's website this past weekend saying:
Dear Brentsville Parents/Guardians:
I wish to express my deepest regret to the Brentsville community in relation to the following:
Our administration is aware of a classroom incident involving student behavior, which included the posting of a video. The incident was reported to administration and investigated. We continue to address the concerns of those involved. We work every day to achieve high standards of behavior from our students and staff. When this expectation is not met, we take it seriously.
We are working to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. This process includes communications directly with the parents. The process also includes not sharing any student's disciplinary consequences publicly.
We will continue to remind students that acting out inappropriately in school or at school events is a violation of the Prince William County Public Schools “Code of Behavior.” We appreciate your help in reinforcing this message. Students play a key role in creating a welcoming environment where all students can focus on their education. We continue to ask that any student who is aware of violations of the Code report such violations to teachers or administrators immediately.
It is important to all that Brentsville District High School be a good place to learn and grow.