Ath­letes al­lege racial threats

Calver­ton draws some heat as stu­dents are sus­pended; deputy tem­po­rar­ily as­signed

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By DANDAN ZOU [email protected]­news.com

The Calver­ton School is fac­ing crit­i­cism from some in the com­mu­nity over its han­dling of al­leged threats among some of its stu­dent ath­letes that led to the re­ported sus­pen­sion of three stu­dents, one of whom ended up with­draw­ing from the pri­vate school.

The crit­ics have ac­cused the school of un­fair treat­ment and fail­ing to ad­dress some ra- cially of­fen­sive re­marks al­legedly made by a Calver­ton lacrosse player.

The school in Hunt­ing­town has 259 stu­dents en­rolled from preschool to 12th grade. Ac­cord­ing to Niche.com, a school rank­ings site that lists Calver­ton as the 45th best pri­vate high school in Mary­land, the de­mo­graph­ics of stu­dents at the school are al­most 57 per­cent white, 21.5 per­cent African-Amer­i­can, with Asian, mul­tira­cial and His­panic stu­dents mak­ing up the re­main­der.

Mar­cus Malone, the fa­ther of an African-Amer­i­can stu­dent who was sus­pended two weeks ago, told The Calvert Recorder he has pulled his 14-year-old son out of Calver- ton af­ter be­ing no­ti­fied that his son was put on “in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion.”

Malone’s son, a ninth-grader, was a new stu­dent at Calver­ton and had joined the basketball team in the sum­mer.

Jerome McArthur, the boys basketball team’s head coach, told the Recorder a lacrosse player used the “N-word” and made other deroga­tory re­marks in some back-and­forth mes­sages on Snapchat, a so­cial me­dia plat­form heav­ily used by young peo­ple.

Malone said his son re­sponded by us­ing

some threat­en­ing words, but that it was a joke — made af­ter provo­ca­tion — that went too far.

“He made a bad choice,” Malone said by phone Dec. 19. “The ad­min­is­tra­tion said it caused a threat to the whole com­mu­nity” and put him on “in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion,” prompt­ing Malone to with­draw his son from the school.

McArthur and Malone both agreed there should be con­se­quences for mak­ing threat­en­ing re­marks. But they said they find it

un­fair and trou­bling when only one side is rep­ri­manded.

“I’m fine with the sus­pen­sion, if they felt you should be sus­pended,” McArthur said, not­ing three basketball play­ers were sus­pended while no­body from the lacrosse team was rep­ri­manded. “But you can’t have it when you are not do­ing noth­ing to any­body else.”

McArthur said the school ad­min­is­tra­tion was pre­sented proof of the racial re­marks al­legedly made by the lacrosse stu­dent, but said they didn’t con­sider it a threat.

One of the mes­sages, ac­cord­ing to McArthur,

said “you won’t live to be 20 years old.”

“I’m an African-Amer­i­can. If some­one is call­ing me an-----, I would take that as a threat,” McArthur said. “If some­one is say­ing I ‘won’t live to be a cer­tain age,’ I would take that as a threat.”

Malone of Wal­dorf said the in­ci­dent could’ve been han­dled bet­ter and made into a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for all the stu­dents.

“Taunt­ing goes two ways,” Malone said. “This is not equal, fair treat­ment.”

When con­tacted Dec. 19, the school de­clined to dis­cuss dis­ci­plinary mat­ters, cit­ing pri­vacy con­sid­er­a­tions.

“So­cial me­dia can be a chal­leng­ing medium for

young peo­ple, and help­ing them to un­der­stand the im­pact of their words and the proper use of that medium, for us, is a teach­able mo­ment,” said Christo­pher Hayes, head of school, who de­clined to con­firm or deny whether any stu­dents were sus­pended.

Hayes said by phone he was not aware of the par­tic­u­lar racial ep­i­thet be­ing used, and some re­count­ing of what hap­pened sounded to him “not fully ac­cu­rate” and “sig­nif­i­cantly in­flated in the retelling.”

“Par­tic­u­larly in the 21st cen­tury, is­sues of race are ex­tremely im­por­tant. It is a pri­or­ity for us as a school to help our stu­dents to con­sis­tently treat

oth­ers with re­spect both with lan­guage and ac­tions,” Hayes said. “Part of the learn­ing process is when stu­dents make a poor choice, we help them make a bet­ter one, and that’s not re­stricted to race.”

Hayes also de­clined to dis­cuss the ru­mor of an al­leged stu­dent hit list.

“If we be­come aware of a threat of that na­ture, we would take it very se­ri­ously and in­ves­ti­gate it be­cause our goal is to cre­ate a safe learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

When con­tacted by the Recorder, Bryan Frates, the school’s boys lacrosse team head coach, de­clined to com­ment.

McArthur and Malone both said they didn’t think there was a hit list. Malone said it was some­thing that came up when some boys were pep­pered with ques­tions of whether there’s a list and who’s on that list.

“There’s no list. At some point, they got [ir­ri­tated] and said: ‘Here you go. You want some­thing? Boom,’” Malone said. “They shouldn’t have done that. But, by God, these are kids.”

Capt. David Payne, spokesper­son for the Calvert County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, said Dec. 19 a par­ent called the po­lice about two weeks ear­lier and re­ported some “so­cial me­dia ha­rass­ment.” A school re­source of­fi­cer from the sher­iff’s of­fice re­sponded, and the school has taken ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tions.

“It’s my un­der­stand­ing that they had some meet­ing af­ter the so­cial me­dia ha­rass­ment” re­port, Payne said. “Out of that meet­ing, they called us and said they feel every­body would feel more com­fort­able if we pro­vide some se­cu­rity.”

On Dec. 11, an off-duty po­lice deputy was hired by the school to be present at Calver­ton un­til Dec. 21, when the school started Christ­mas break, ac­cord­ing to Payne.

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