Parents voice concern at recent board meeting

By PAT BROWN,

The situation with a noose that was tied in a piece of cord at Mendenhall Jr. High had parents and members from the black community up in arms at the school board meeting.

LaClaudia Hayes, parent of a Mendenhall Junior High student, said her child was traumatized from seeing the noose at the school.  She along with other parents said they had to explain racism to their 5th grade children since the incident.  She said her child is now in need of professional counseling because of the incident. 

Hayes also claimed there was a lack of protocol followed in regards to the situation. 

She said students were called into the office and asked to write statements as to what they had seen. Hayes questioned the school board attorney as to whether this was legal, and attorney Wesla Leech quickly replied that she was not giving legal advice.  Hayes said that she should have been notified as soon as the incident occurred.  She said that the situation was not investigated properly and that an outside agency should be called in to do an independent investigation.  Superintendent Greg Paes agreed to see that this was done. 

Hayes also asked that an apology be issued for the way the situation was handled.  Superintendent Greg Paes said if they were looking for someone to blame they could lay the blame on him. 

Members of the audience said this should be investigated as a Federal Crime since it was a knot referred to as a hangman’s noose. 

Hayes questioned the board, “Is my child safe at Mendenhall Junior High?”  She then questioned of the administration, “Are they capable of following protocol and bringing the school out of an F rating.” 

Dr. Robert Sanders, director of Human Resources was responsible for conducting the investigation into the matter.  He said the ropes had been hanging in the cafeteria for some time, and were used to hang curtains at the prom.  He said since then all of the ropes have been removed and there are none in the cafeteria any more. 

Dr. Sanders said the situation is still under investigation and the district would not accept or tolerate behavior that was meant to intimidate students. 

A photograph of the noose was taken by a teacher, Gloria Funchess and was circulated across the internet. 

A copy was sent to the newspaper from Amanda Rollins, who is incidentally a television detective on Law and Order.  The paper made effort respond to the sender and the address was blocked. 

The paper contacted the school and it appeared they were handling the issue in a reasonable manner.  However, the issue made it to

 social media and was shared like wild fire. 

The school board went on the record issuing a statement about the incident and the paper decided to do a story.