By: Suzie Glassman/Castle Rock, CO
(Castle Rock, CO) When Lacey Ganzy’s son Jeremiah, who is half Black, was invited to join a Snapchat with many of his classmates at Castle Rock Middle School, he had no idea he’d soon be the target of hate speech.
Ganzy, who provided screenshots like the one below, said her son was repeatedly called a monkey and an n-word and no longer feels safe at school after blowing the whistle on the students involved. One student, according to Ganzy, threatened to lynch Jeremiah.
“He was either called a monkey or an n-word every day. On March 1st, for the entire day, this hate group told him and the other student to go back to their country because Black History Month was over.”
The United Nations defines hate speech as “any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor.”
Ganzy said there were 163 students in the group when she found out about it, but that students left in droves after one of the group’s leaders started a live chat saying Jeremiah had snitched to school administrators.
Once Ganzy began collecting evidence and other students knew Jeremiah had brought attention to the hate directed at him and another Black student, she said his friends have all unfriended him on social media.
Boys who were supposed to attend a sleepover last weekend found reasons not to come.
“He really is alienated and alone,” she said.
Too little too late
One student was suspended and may face criminal charges of racial harassment. But another student, who Ganzy believes was also guilty of a hate crime, was not suspended until after she and her children spoke out publicly.
She also said the school and the district failed to do anything when Jeremiah filed a complaint through a district feedback form.
In the form, Jeremiah wrote, “ I have constantly been racially profiled and offended by students at CRMS. They often use racial slurs near me and many others thinking it's funny, and it makes me feel uncomfortable and unwanted in my school. I have asked multiple times for them to make it stop to no avail.
“It comes from everyone, and l've been hearing slurs and stereotypes from other kids who go to schools in the area as well. It's a problem that the school is also aware of, as I've heard from staff that a meeting was held on the subject. They still have yet to talk to students about it.
“It's no one in particular, it's everyone. It wasn't just today, it's every day.
“There will even be times when staff will be in the area when such discrimination takes place. Nothing is done about the matter.
“I feel that our school, along with many others, could use some redirection on how we treat fellow students. I'm just disappointed that this happens so often, and if it keeps coming from students, it's paving a path for students in previous grades, and may never be fixed.
“I just ask that hate speech be taken more seriously in our district to make the environment more welcoming for students now, and in the future.”
Only after Ganzy involved the media did the school contact her about creating a safety plan for Jeremiah, offering to escort him to class for a presentation he was supposed to give.
Ganzy declined to let her son go on a “Salem witch walk,” stating she couldn’t subject him to that kind of emotional trauma.
The scarlet letter family
Because they’ve made public accusations against students and called the district out about its lax behavior toward these incidents, Ganzy believes her family now has a scarlet letter attached to them.
Ganzy and her three children each gave public comment during this week’s board of education meeting testifying to their experiences with racism while attending DougCo schools.
“Over the course of five years, I’ve seen this happen all too often. This time it became criminal, and my son no longer has a safe place to go to school,” Ganzy told the board. “When is enough enough?”
“Even though I’m native to Castle Rock, born and raised, I will be having to relocate my family out of this city.” Ganzy is afraid to come home and find her son hurt himself.
Nevaeh Ganzy, who attends Colorado Early Colleges, a DougCo charter high school, said that while attending Castle Rock Middle School, she was discriminated against by students and staff. At Douglas County High School, she was forced to debate for Jim Crow Laws that legalized racial segregation until she spoke up and said she wouldn’t do it. After that, Ganzy removed Nevaeh.
Ganzy’s oldest daughter, Kaiya Johnson, served in the Navy and is now reconciling with the fact that she was fighting for the freedom of people who now harass her family.
Johnson told the board she’d been called an n-word while attending Douglas County High School and no one did anything.
“The fact that we are being picked on by students and staff is embarrassing. It’s not giving liberty and justice for all,” said Johnson.
The DougCo student body is 71.9% White, 1.3% Black, 5.9% Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander, 14.8% Hispanic/Latino, 0.4% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Less than 6% of students are two or more races.