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Indian Land parent files civil rights complaint

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By Reece Murphy

An Indian Land mother has filed a civil rights complaint against the Lancaster County School District alleging racism by school officials at Indian Land high and middle schools. 

In a report that aired Wednesday on WBTV, Krisma Gregory, who is black, said the unfair punishments meted out by school officials in two separate incidents involving her sons were racially motivated.

The first incident occurred in late November when a white student allegedly pushed Gregory’s 10th-grade son, James Gregory, so hard that it both broke his cell phone screen and injured his back, the report said.

The Lancaster News does not usually identify minors, but made an exception in this case because James Gregory is identified in the broadcast with his mother’s consent and talks about the incident himself.

After investigating the incident, which included review of surveillance video, Indian Land Principal David Shamble ruled the students were “horse playing” and didn’t discipline either student, Krisma Gregory said. 

The second incident occurred in mid-January at ILMS, where Gregory’s younger son is a student.

Gregory said in that incident, which she said was also horse playing, her younger son was given a day’s in-school suspension for swinging a T-shirt and accidentally hitting a white student in the eye.

The disparity in punishment between the two incidents, as well as the fact that the other students were not punished, happened because of her sons’ race, Gregory said in the report.

“It’s not right,” Krisma Gregory said. “It’s not fair. It should be what’s good for one student should be good for the other.

“I know it has to do with the color of their skin,” she said.

During the broadcast, Gregory also took issue with LCSD’s disciplinary policy that allows principals leeway in determining punishments at their respective schools and said she’d like to see a diversity committee set up by the school district to handle complaints like hers.

In a brief phone conversation from work Thursday, Gregory said she sent certified letters to both Lancaster County School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore and Director of Safety and Transportation Bryan Vaughn about her concerns.

Gregory said she contacted the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) after not hearing back from Moore and Vaughn.

OCR, she said, has since agreed to conduct an investigation under its expedited early complaint-resolution process, a process to which Gregory said both she and the school district agreed.

“I do want this resolved,” Gregory said. “I want, first of all, to feel that my children are being protected at school and that they’re being treated fairly.

“We can’t go back and punish the other boys, it’s been too long and that wouldn’t be fair to them," she said. “So at this point, we're doing the early complaint resolution.”

District response

Vaughn said he couldn’t discuss Gregory’s allegations. The school district, he said, is bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which prohibits officials from commenting on specific disciplinary incidents involving students.

Speaking generally, Vaughn said he feels it’s important to note that the forms and severity of discipline are different between high school and middle school incidents because of differentiated disciplinary codes.

Vaughn said the district’s principals and other administrators are professionals who regularly complete professional-development training in the administration of rules and punishments. He also said if district officials felt any employee had done something inappropriate, they’d contact the relevant outside agencies themselves.

Vaughn said the district’s disciplinary policy allows leeway for principals in handling any disciplinary case in which the incident would result in a punishment of less than 10 days. 

He said there is a built-in system of checks and balances throughout the disciplinary code.

“We feel like from a district standpoint, that we have an appropriate mechanism in place to ensure everyone is afforded the opportunity to be treated fairly and equitably across the board,” Vaughn said. 

“Anytime we have a situation where there’s a complaint made by an agency against our school district, we’re going to be compliant and forthcoming with that agency on anything they ask of us,” Vaughn said. “In all inquiries from outside agencies, we cooperate, and we’re doing so in all active investigations at this point.”

 

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151