Police are investigating how a 12-year-old African-American student got severe rope burns around her neck while on a class trip.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the girl and her mother believe that it wasn’t an accident and instead was an intentional racial attack, which may have been a direct result of white students bullying her daughter for months. The private Live Oak Classical School, located in Waco, Texas is predominately white and the girl harmed was one of two Black students attending the overnight trip.
According to the student, on April 28 they were playing with a rope swing attached to a tree and when it was her turn, she became tangled in the rope, which she believes was due to the students who were “helping” her swing. She claims that none of the students came to her aid when she fell to the ground with pieces of the rope stuck in her neck.
Afterwards, she confronted the group, asking if they did “it on purpose” to which they denied her accusations.
“It looked like somebody had ripped her neck apart and stitched it back together,” Sandy Rougely, the girl’s mother, told the Morning News. Roughly also claimed that the school never contacted her about her daughter’s injury. She first found out about it when she went to pick her child up when the trip was over–a full day later.
Roughly has currently hired two lawyers to represent her and her daughter. T.J. Jones, one of her attorneys believes that this was no accident.
“I don’t know how you can look at her neck, at the pictures and think this was anything but intentional.” But he said even if what occurred was an accident, the way the school handled the situation was “beyond poor,” Jones said.
However, the school vehemently denies this was done on purpose or has any racial undertones.
In a statement emailed to the Morning News, Jeremy Counseller, a member of the school’s board of directors, emphasized that while they were saddened by the injury, the student was given “first aid treatment immediately,” continued to “enjoy the remainder of the field trip.”
In addition, Counseller accused Roughly and her lawyers of using race for financial gain by saying the parties were trying to “exploit” the 100th anniversary “of the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco.” He also claims that the family’ lawyer told them to either “pay $2.7 million or he would make the allegations public.”
However, Roughly’s attorneys state that they were told by the school to put their financial demand in writing and that they based their number on living expenses plus private school through 12th grade, college for the girl and her plans to pursue a law or medical degree.
“For Live Oak to bury their head in the sand and chalk this incident up to ‘kids being kids’ is irresponsible but, unfortunately, all too common,” said Levi McCathern, Roughly’s other attorney. “Their tone-deaf approach reflects an attitude that our client’s injury was not worth investigating or even informing her mother about.”
And while the school is accusing Roughly of playing the race card, she stresses that race was the last thing she wanted to blame.
“I think there was prejudice at the root of all of this. I didn’t want to say it at first. I didn’t want to see it like this, in this way,” Rougely said. “But as I go back and think about the different things that were going on and occurring in the school year, that’s all I can see. And nobody did anything about it.”
Currently, police have not charged anyone involved with this incident.