Family may sue school district over racial harassment

Chereall Deboest says her daughter was targeted by racial messages.
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David MacAnally/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A Decatur Township family is taking legal action against the school district over alleged hazing.

The mother of a female African-American student at Decatur Central High School has been harassed with words, photos and in text messages.

"Several incidents of hazing," said attorney Robert Turner.

But Turner says the harassment goes way beyond hazing. The 16-year-old student's mother, Chereall Deboest, said, "In one such incident, a young man told her she was a "monkey" and needed to "go back to the zoo."

Deboest says the male student received a one-day suspension from school, but over the next two weeks, there were more incidents with two other students.

"They were in the library when the young man addressed her by the n-word, then he took it back a step and said, 'Well, I mean Negro, or whatever the politically correct term you guys use these days'," Deboest said.

Then, a cell phone message with a sketch of a Klansman and a bucket of chicken and a voice message with the "n-word" used repeatedly.

Deboest says her daughter was shaken and upset over the messages.

"When I heard the call, I began to cry. I don't feel any student or child deserves for the act to happen to them," Deboest said.

The mother says the message was the third incident in three weeks involving racial slurs targeted at her daughter by three different male students. Deboest says the school system failed to prevent the racial harassment and then failed to deal with it properly once it happened.

The mother says when she took it to the school, she wasn't pleased with the results.

"The school security person refused to take a report. He stated since no one threatened to kill the daughter or harm her, there is really nothing they could do. The prosecutor would not pursue it," Turner said.

Friday afternoon, Decatur Township Schools Superintendent Donald Stinson reacted to Turner's announcement.

"When I first heard that today from the media, I was very upset. That, first of all, that this was happening in Decatur Township Schools," he said. "I am very upset with that video. It is not appropriate and I will not tolerate that kind of behavior in Decatur Township Schools."

Stinson says high school staff members never told him about the incident and he wishes the family would have contacted him directly.

"I will continue my investigation until I get a full picture of what has occurred and I will put together a report," Stinson said.

Stinson says his investigation will include how his staff handled the case.

"Unfortunately, the one step that did not occur in this case is, the parent that was upset, never came and told me about it. I understand they dealt with some high school staff. If they had come to me, I would have dealt with it in a very swift manner," he said.