The year is 2016, but a Kentucky teen is being charged with a crime that’s straight out of pre-civil-rights movement America.
A group text message between football players at Lexington Catholic High School showed one white player threatening to “lynch” his black freshman teammate. The story was originally reported by the Key News-Journal, a local Lexington publication serving the black community. According to the report, Denisha Vinegar, mother to DaMarco, was taking her son’s cracked laptop to get repaired and decided to scan his computer for any mischief. What she wasn’t prepared to find were racist messages from his teammates.
The first message was about DaMarco supposedly owing money for something. “I was confused why he’d ask DaMarco for money, so I kept reading to see why,” Denisha told the News-Journal. “Then I saw things like ‘picking cotton’ and ‘sell crack to get it’ and stuff about me being on Maury because he doesn’t know who his father is.”
Then one of the boys changed the group message subject to “Damarco I’m gonna lynch you.” None of the others reportedly chimed in to stop the ringleader from hurling the racial slurs. And after DaMarco reported the incident, things supposedly only got worse.
“He said [the bully] told him that he’d spit in his face in front of the coach and nobody would do anything about it,” Denisha said. “He said he’d noose my son with a chain instead of rope. I asked who was there when he said these things, and my son didn’t know the other boy’s names because they were upperclassmen and he was new.’’
The students’ acts seem to be in direct violation of the school’s code of conduct, which states a “written or verbal assault/threat made against any student, faculty, or administrative member of Lexington Catholic High School’’ warrants expulsion. But Denisha says the bully was only given an in-school suspension. She also says that Father Norman Fischer, the black school chaplain, wasn’t even notified about the racist slurs aimed at DaMarco.
According to Denisha, this was not the first instance of racism that her son has been subjected to at Lexington Catholic. Back in October, DaMarco’s Latin teacher told her that her son was being mean to a girl in class. She later discovered it was the same girl who had “teased Demarco about his complexion and made comments about picking cotton.” The girl’s parents were never confronted, and the teacher made excuses for her behavior toward him.
But as local NBC affiliate Lex 18 reports, justice for DeMarco may happen after all: The 17-year-old ringleader of the racist comments has been charged by police with racially charged harassment.
“This is a very serious racial situation, and there are many layers to these cases,” the Vinegar family attorney Amos Jones told the Key-Journal after the charges were announced Thursday. “In our own investigation, we have uncovered a pattern at the school harboring these sentiments. The family of the victim should have been encouraged and empowered by LCHS and not disrespected and chased away.’’
The Lexington Police released a statement about the charges:
Police are investigating a criminal complaint filed by the mother of a Lexington Catholic High School student. Several of you have asked if this is a “hate crime.” Technically, Police do not have the authority/jurisdiction to classify an act as a “hate crime.” That is up to the court to determine if an act is bias motivated.
The teen will face up to 12 months in a county jail if convicted of the crime.