A video posted to Facebook last week generated controversy for the Park Hill School District regarding allegations of racism in one of its schools.
Miguel Caraballo speaks for more than 6 minutes in front of a black background laying out details of what he believes to be abuse his stepson, who is of African American and Mexican descent, suffered throughout this past year at Plaza Middle School. Posted on Friday, May 20, the video has been viewed more than 18,000 times, and Caraballo continues to encourage sharing it in what he views as an attempt to force the district to address what he calls “systemically supporting discrimination and racism.”
Nicole Kirby, director of communication services at Park Hill, said the district has met with the parents of the child throughout the year and met with them again Tuesday to further discuss the issues.
“In everything we do, we always have room for improvement and look for ways to do a better job,” she said. “We would never suggest we have everything figured out. There’s always an opportunity to see how things are going and see how we can improve. This case is no exception.”
In the video, Caraballo cites frustration with the process of coming to a resolution. He adds in subsequent posts to Facebook that he hopes a broader awareness of this situation helps force the district to take more decisive action against racism and bullying.
Caraballo wants a zero tolerance policy along with extensive sensitivity training for Park Hill staff from an outside source.
According to the video, one particular student repeatedly harassed Caraballo’s stepson with actions including racial slurs, the suggestion minorities should die and physical altercations. Caraballo alleges that teachers and building staff have not done enough to address the problem and further claims that his stepson has been singled out and punished for his reactions to the other student’s behavior.
According to Caraballo, his stepson has been removed from class because the family does not feel that Plaza offers a safe learning environment at this time. The Park Hill school year is scheduled to end on Thursday, May 26.
At one point in the video, Caraballo states that not only is racist behavior being tolerated in the Park Hill district but claims the behavior in this case is being “rewarded.”
“I would say racial behavior is never tolerated in Park Hill,” Kirby said. “We are working to try and do everything we can to combat that.”
Caraballo wants this particular student permanently removed from Park Hill schools. Kirby couldn’t speak to disciplinary procedures for this particular situation but indicated that policy must be followed.
“It would vary from case to case,” she said. “We have to go through our due process when someone violates school policies. We definitely have to follow that and make sure we are meeting our legal requirements to serve all students while protecting the safety of the learning environment.”
According to district documents, minorities made up 30.4 percent of its total student population this school year – an all-time high.
Since the initial video, Caraballo has indicated positive conversations have taken place with school officials. However, he still wants to try and instigate widespread changes to combat perceived discrimination for current and future minority students at Park Hill.
The final part of Caraballo’s video gives explanation for his overall concerns. He indicates that his stepson’s father also attended Park Hill schools, and that he experienced the same racial issues back then that still exist now.
Kirby insists the district takes the accusations seriously and will work to make changes as needed. No timeline exists for taking action to alter or institute new policy regarding racism or discrimination.
“We are upset and outraged any time a student has to deal with this type of racist behavior or language at school,” she said.