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School racial incidents still troubling [Editorial]

No one should be shocked that a parent of a Harford County Public Schools student told the school board that another student at Patterson Mill Middle School had called his son a racial slur.

From time to time, there are students who complain they have been subjected to racism, particularly being called the n-word pejorative. Kids can be cruel, mean and vicious to one another. They are also often misguided and uninformed.

Any of those things can easily prompt a middle schooler to spew invective that includes the n-word, as well as other nasty words that can’t be printed in this newspaper.

This isn’t, however, merely a case of boys will be boys or sixth-graders will be sixth-graders and shrugged off. No, this episode matters because it illuminates the hatred that shouldn’t, but does exist in our schools and our communities.

In the Patterson Mill incident, the father and son, who is a sixth grade student, are African-American.

“I wholeheartedly feel the other student’s action toward my son is another shining example of hate and non-acceptance within this county,” Tim Manning, the father who complained to the school board at its Monday night meeting, said.

There is no other explanation in this situation, other than to belittle, for a student to call another a racial slur.

The n-word, which it’s not clear if that was the racial slur in the Patterson Mill incident, is a horrid word with which Americans have not made peace. Nor should a sixth grader in a Harford County Public School in 2018 be at peace with it, or any similar verbal attacks using different, but still offensive words.

We commend Manning for making this incident a public issue, even after he said that he brought it to the attention of Patterson Mill Middle School officials, who he said were “responsive” to his concerns.

That’s not the point; we would expect nothing less than for Harford County Public Schools officials to be concerned and responsive.

Whether it’s the use of racial epithets or other deviant behavior, school officials should proactively deal with such disconcerting issues head-on.

And, they are. Since last fall, when seven Bel Air High School students wearing white t-shirts sporting a single letter each not only spelled out the n-word, but also posted it on social media, the school system has had a task force.

“The task force will be charged with making recommendations for ensuring safe, supportive and inclusive learning and working environments and a continuing focus on equity, diversity and inclusion embedded throughout Harford County Public Schools,” Laurie Namey, supervisor of the school system’s Office of Equity and Cultural Proficiency, said.

Creating the task force was a bold and positive step for the school system. Not much, however, not much has happened with it since last fall. As the task force founders in bureaucracy, time is passing and opportunities to make a difference in kids lives are being lost.

“It cannot, will not, be tolerated by me,” the father of the Patterson Mill Middle School student, said about the incident with his son. The father said he is active duty Air Force who works at Fort Meade.

“It’s an unfortunate incident in 2018.”

We disagree, ever so slightly, with the father. It’s not unfortunate, it’s intolerable and the school system should push ahead a little more quickly, doing what more it can to change such prejudices.

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