When Theresa Bennet saw the picture of a car bearing offensive language in the Holmen High School parking lot, she decided it was past time to call attention to a growing concern in the district.
Bennett took a screenshot after seeing the image in a Snapchat and posted the message on social media.
“The principal from the school called me yesterday [Monday] kind of insinuating that they would like me to take the post down but without asking me to take down the post,” Bennett said.
In a statement, the Holmen School District acknowledged that a student drove a car into the high school parking lot with an offensive image and racial slur on the passenger side but said the driver was unaware.
“We commend our students who wiped off the offensive images and reported the incident to school officials,” district administrator Kristin Mueller said.
School officials interviewed students and viewed camera footage to confirm the incident happened off school grounds. They are currently working in partnership with the Holmen Police Department in the investigation.
“Racism is not acceptable on school grounds or in our community,” Mueller said. We know these actions and statements reported are by a small number of students and do not accurately reflect the character and feelings of the entire student body.”
Bennett said it has been an ongoing issue since the fall, and she was frustrated that there was little action or awareness on the issue.
“I’ve got a Snapchat that was directed directly to my daughter that was absolutely disgusting by a girl calling her the n-word repeatedly,” Bennett said. “Kids are using the n-word like it is okay.”
Her daughter, 16-year-old Shantae Sheard, started a diversity group at school as a multicultural, safe place for students to gather. The junior said she noticed that racial slurs, jokes and comments were becoming more normalized.
“I used to be kind of quiet about it, but then I realized that it wasn’t okay,” Sheard said. “There’s a lot of people that think they can use the word like another swear word or a joke.”
She said even close friends started calling her the n-word, and when she approached them about it in person, they continued using the word on social media platforms.
“That’s when I knew we needed a place to come together and have a united front,” Sheard said.
So far, the diversity group has met twice with strong support from teachers and staff, according to Sheard.
“As we see more incidents of racism in society, we are also seeing more incidents in our schools
and community,” Mueller said. “Racism has no place in Holmen. We understand the moral responsibility we have to be relentless in our work to create a culture in which racism is not tolerated and every child and adult is treated with respect and dignity.”
Mueller said appropriate discipline will be handed down if a student is found to have written the message.