Apparent noose found in bathroom of Royal Oak school
Royal Oak Schools and police are investigating the discovery Friday of an apparent noose hanging in a Royal Oak Middle School restroom.
“At 2 p.m. today, teachers reported to administrators a commotion on the 3rd floor boys’ restroom of Royal Oak Middle School,” Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin wrote Friday in an email to district staff and families. “The administrators who responded discovered what appeared to be a noose hanging from a bathroom stall.”
The school district and the Royal Oak Police Department are conducting separate investigations, officials said.
“There is an active investigation at this time,” said Sgt. Steve Teichow of the Royal Oak Police. “We’re not 100 percent certain that it is credible.”
Teichow declined further explanation.
The alleged discovery follows an incident last week in which some students at the same school were videotaped chanting in the lunchroom “build that wall,” referencing one issue in President-elect Donald Trump’s platform: erecting a wall along the border of the United States and Mexico.
The video, which garnered millions of Facebook views, sparked debate. It is no longer available for public view.
In the email, Lewis-Lakin wrote that the school is following its policies and procedures.
“At Royal Oak Public Schools, the safety of our students is our number one priority,” he wrote. “We take this incident very seriously. We will not tolerate intimidation, threats, harassment or bullying.”
Lewis-Lakin did not immediately return a call seeking additional information.
Alicia Ramon called the latest incident horrible.
“To see that in 2016, it’s not easy,” she said. Her daughter, a seventh-grader at the middle school, was the student who caught the lunchroom chant incident on tape last week.
Ramon said she’s confident the district will handle the matter appropriately. She noted the prompt email parents received alerting them to Friday’s incident.
“I hope they found who did it,” she said. “I hope nobody was physically injured. It’s just so close, so raw.”
Adrianna Marino, who has a seventh-grader at the school, said she also believes the district will take swift action to address the incident.
“On the coattails of the election, things are raw and emotions are running high,” she said. “For this to happen, it’s broken my soul.”
Marino said she does not believe the recent incidents represent the feelings of most of the school community.
“I am very close with a lot of parents,” she said. “I’m involved in PTA. I’m an engaged parent in the community. That’s part of why I’m shocked. I’m absolutely stunned and can’t believe that’s a vast majority of the community.”
On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan posted on its website a call for an apology following reports of alleged racially offensive incidents at the school.
In the letter addressed to Lewis-Lakin, the ACLU notes the lunchroom incident as well as allegations that students have issued racial slurs at students of Mexican and Asian ancestry.
“In addition, it is alleged that African-American students have been called the N-word and other racially offensive terms,” the ACLU wrote in the letter. “More disturbing than all of these reports is the allegation that a teacher directed an African-American student to demonstrate for the class how slaves danced for their masters.”
“The ACLU of Michigan is prepared to allow for the possibility that students involved in the conduct referenced above were influenced by the harsh political climate either directly or by the examples set by adults in their homes and communities,” the ACLU wrote. “If that is the case, then there are good prospects for using these incidents as ‘teachable moments’ that can restore otherwise good relationships in the school community.”
In response to the ACLU, Lewis-Larkin wrote in a separate email Friday that the allegations in the organization’s letter are abhorrent.
“Immediately, upon my receipt of the letter, I personally contacted the ACLU,” he wrote. “Some of the allegations are historical. They were investigated and addressed when they occurred. As soon as we learned of the other allegations we began investigating them. Our investigation of the allegation involving a staff member has determined that the classroom activity that occurred was not as described in the ACLU letter ... Bullying, harassment, racism and intimidation — in word and/or action — are unacceptable. Period.”
Lewis-Larkin said that during a school board meeting Thursday night the district spoke of the work the district is doing to move forward.