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Claremont Schools Plan Program on Race



Valley News Correspondent
Friday, September 22, 2017

Claremont — School district officials want to foster more community dialogue on issues surrounding bullying and other forms of discrimination following allegations that an 8-year-old biracial boy was injured when he was hung by a rope by some young teens last month.

“As troubling as that incident was, it provides us with an opportunity,” Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin said Thursday. “This is not about Claremont as much as it is about how we treat each other, and we should have a candid conversation about that.”

It is also a chance to review some of the school policies surround bullying and take a step back to see what is working and how vigilant the schools are in responding to incidents.

“This will be a multi-tiered process,”McGoodwin said.

Though the Aug. 28 incident has garnered national attention from media outlets and created negative publicity for the city, McGoodwin and School Board Chairman Brian Rapp said stifling a necessary discussion in hopes it would take the spotlight off Claremont is not the right approach.

McGoodwin said the incident was not “isolated” meaning it only affected those involved and their families.

“When a person is hurt, everyone in the community is hurt,” he said.

The alleged incident occurred in the area of Barnes Park before the start of school.

“When you are dealing with bullying, even if it didn’t happen on school grounds, it can leak over into the school atmosphere,” Rapp said. “Our job is to be sure students are taught in a safe environment and that is where the School Board can play a part. It is going to be important to have that conversation.”

Rapp anticipates the board scheduling times to meet to allow parents, students and others an opportunity to express their thoughts.

“This is a community discussion that has to go beyond the one incident,” he said.

The boy’s grandmother claims the teens, 14 years and younger, taunted the boy with racial slurs and threw sticks and rocks at his legs before a rope was placed around his neck from a tire swing and he was pushed off a picnic table.

The boy suffered burn marks on his neck and was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center where he was later released.

In an earlier interview with the Valley News, the grandmother said she believes her grandson was targeted because he is biracial.

Claremont Police began investigating shortly after the incident was reported, but the names of the teens have not made public because they are juveniles, nor have any details of what happened been provided.

Earlier this month, Gov. Chris Sununu instructed the state Attorney General’s Office to assist in the investigation. The Attorney General’s Office said it had been in contact with the Clarmeont police since the outset of the probe.

Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase said on Thursday the investigation is ongoing and that he could not offer anything further.

On Thursday evening, Chase attended a community meeting on racial justice and diversity at Trinity Episcopal Church, where about 70 people came to build on last week’s event in Broad Street Park that was held to demonstrate solidarity against bigotry and intolerance.

Chase said they broke into discussion groups and talked about racial diversity and related issues in the community — not just Claremont but surrounding towns as well.

“Hearing some of those experiences was a real eye-opener for me,” Chase said. “I think it (the night) was a home run for the organizers. It is a step forward on race, diversity and bias in the community. We didn’t solve anything but we are talking and we are moving forward and that is a good thing.”

McGoodwin said the solution will require long-term strategies involving the board, administration, faculty and parents.

“The community of Claremont is not turning its back on this incident. It is a reminder that we have work to do,” the superintendent said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com