GEORGETOWN, Texas -- The family of a Tippit Middle School student says Georgetown ISD has not done enough after multiple race-related incidents took place at the school this year.
Robert Ranco said his 12-year-old daughter was targeted three times - twice in March and once in May - by fellow classmates.
In one alleged incident, a classmate pulled up a picture of an ape, showed his daughter and said, "this is what you look like."
In another claim, that same classmate reportedly followed the girl around a tennis court with a long piece of trash, pretending to whip her, and said words to the effect of "You're my slave now!".
The report stated that school officials were not made aware of those incidents until Mr. Ranco reached out in May.
In a separate claim, centered around a lunch dispute, a classmate reportedly said, "It wasn't me. You're not really going to take the word of a black person over the word of a white person, are you?"
According to the report, school officials met with Mr. Ranco and the students involved, in which the classmate apologized to Mr. Ranco's daughter. It further noted there had been no further incidents involving the classmate and Mr. Ranco's daughter following that conference.
"It hurts. It hurts bad," explained Jaquita Wilson-Kirby, a family friend who spoke on behalf of the Ranco family.
Wilson-Kirby said her own son was the victim of bullying when he attended a separate school in Georgetown ISD.
"We've been having a hard time proving that case that there is racism here in Georgetown. So when Rob let us know what happened (to his daughter), we felt as a community that we had to get behind him," Wilson-Kirby explained.
Ranco called for a change in school leadership, while Wilson-Kirby said the district should hire more minorities and enhance their conflict resolution practices.
"We're going 'oh kids do bad things.' We're not explaining why this situation is so detrimental to this woman's soul. That's a real issue. And I think when we don't address those, and we don't have policy to address that, we're doing just as much detriment to these other young people. It's incumbent on us that they grow up and be healthy citizens," Wilson-Kirby said.
She works with a local group called Courageous Conversations, which engages in discussions about racial issues, and how to best move forward as a community.
While both the Ranco family and Georgetown ISD declined on-camera interview requests, both released statements.
In a statement on behalf of the Ranco family:
During this past spring semester, my daughter was the victim of three separate incidents of racial bullying at Tippit Middle School in Georgetown, Texas. These incidents are detailed in the school’s official report.
First, I would like to thank the many neighbors and friends who have supported my daughter and our family in recent weeks. The outpouring of love has been tremendous and is appreciated.
My daughter is doing well. She has a great support system. Her mom, siblings, friends and family have provided much needed support.
Our hope is that our daughter’s ordeal brings awareness and sparks conversation in homes across Texas and around the country. Don’t be surprised- do something.
I am so proud of my daughter for finding the courage to stand up and tell the perpetrators “That’s racist. Stop it!” That’s hard to do at any age, and she’s only 12. She’s a hero for being so brave.
I have two requests. First, to the parents: Take a moment to ask yourself what you would do if you saw this happening to someone near you. Would you speak up? No one spoke up for my daughter, other than herself. My hope is that more good people will speak up when they see bullies and racists harassing people of any age.
And, please, teach your children to do the same thing. Talk to them. These issues can be difficult to discuss, but silence is unacceptable.
In a statement on behalf of Georgetown ISD:
You may have seen reports in the media about some disparaging comments and behavior made by a few students at Tippit Middle School. Due to federal and state laws protecting the privacy of the students and families involved, we are not able to respond to the details of the situation referenced. It’s unfortunate that people have formed judgments without having all of the facts; however, you can be assured that this issue was thoroughly and properly addressed.
The behavior of the students involved in these incidents was inappropriate and unacceptable. Once it was reported, the campus principal responded swiftly and, after a full investigation, all students found to be involved were appropriately disciplined according to our Student Code of Conduct. To make very clear that discriminatory conduct is not tolerated, in addition to other disciplinary measures, students involved were counseled regarding their behavior, were required to complete relevant No Place for Hate lessons, and they completed community service. It's important that all students understand there are consequences for their words and actions, and we hope that they learn from their mistakes.
It’s frustrating when students misbehave and it is unfortunate that students mistreat each other from time to time. We can’t control everything that students say or do, but we make every effort to redirect and correct bad behavior when it occurs. The leadership and staff at Tippit care deeply for the students they serve, and it is our responsibility to help students learn from their mistakes and grow.
We will continue to offer services and support to students mistreated and issue consequences for those that mistreat others.
The mission of our district is to inspire and empower every student to lead, grow, and serve. We regret that a student was mistreated by peers, and we regret students made decisions that were hurtful. Our job is to help students find healing when there is hurt and learn from their mistakes. We will continue our pursuit of helping all students grow, in a healthy way, from every experience.