A high school student in Washington state was targeted by a vice principal as “retaliation” for making a complaint about the official’s racially insensitive comments, a school investigator has found.
As Seattle TV K5 News reports, sophomore A’Zhane Harris first butted heads with the vice principal at Foss High School in Tacoma about remarks allegedly made about the cheerleading squad’s routines. Harris, who is a member of the squad, claims that the vice principal complained that the chants were “ghetto.” The vice principal is a white woman, and Harris says the squad is “majority black.”
“Ghetto isn’t a term you call a group that has majority black girls on it,” the teen told K5. “She didn’t apologize. She still hasn’t apologized about it.”
“Rarely would you call a group of white girls ghetto,” her mother, Emily Harris, added. “You just wouldn’t degrade them that way. When you work in a school whose student base is a large ethnic base … you have to have that knowledge. You have to have that understanding.”
The “ghetto” mention prompted an official complaint filed with the school district in January. A month later, in the aftermath of the fatal Parkland, Fla., shooting, Harris found herself embroiled in another conflict with the same vice principal — which resulted in the teen’s suspension.
Harris says she was given a 15-day suspension on charges of cyberbullying after writing a Facebook post accusing a fellow student of making threats of “shooting up” the school. She claims that she first reported the student’s threats to her principal but took matters into her own hands when she felt that nothing had been done.
According to the Harrises, it was the vice principal with whom she had bad blood who complained about the Facebook post. Harris was accused of cyberbullying and “inciting fear,” but she and her mother insist that the fallout all stemmed from the official’s desire for payback over the cheerleading incident.
“The reason why I feel like this vice principal came after me is because of the cheer situation and because she knows I am a cheerleader and she knows that I was involved with [the complaint against her], and I think she was mad and targeted it toward me and another cheerleader,” she said.
“To punish a kid for blowing the whistle when she hears a viable threat and to say that she bullied the student back just made no sense,” her mother added.
Her school district agrees. An independent investigator hired by Tacoma Public Schools determined that Harris was indeed the victim of retaliation. Her record will be cleared, while district spokesperson Dan Voelpel acknowledged that “sometimes, in our effort to err on the side of safety, we don’t always get it right.”
It is unclear if the vice principal in question will face repercussions.
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