By Danny L. White
Special to the NNPA from the Arizona Informant
(NNPA) The Maricopa Branch NAACP is investigating and questioning whether or not a 14 year old African American girl at Pendergast Elementary School was given the opportunity to face her accuser and whether or not the accusation was actually valid. Also of note, did the young person receive “due process?”
The actions that lead to the 14 year old being suspended for nine (9) days and eventually being reassigned to another school were shared with this writer by the student’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Hughes.
AZI: To the best of your knowledge what were the circumstances that lead to your daughter being suspended from school on charges of possession of a narcotic substance?
Hughes: “This was our daughter’s first year at the school. She is an athlete and plays most sports. Some of the girls at the school did not like the fact she was as good as she is. She excelled and the coaches really liked her and she was doing well in school as well.
“When she returned to school in January, the school stated they would provide bus transportation for her. They were pretty adamant, so we said okay. She might have ridden the bus one day and the next or within the first week, the bus driver told her ‘the bus did not go as far as we live?’
“My daughter walked home and on the way someone attempted to assault/molest her.”
AZI: Did you all file a report?
Hughes: “Yes, we filed a report and inquired with the school why our daughter was not allowed on the bus?
AZI: Secondary to the near assault, the school must have felt some responsibility. What was the school reply?
Hughes: “After making such an issue about how they wanted to provide transportation for her, now they backtracked and said something referencing the boundaries.
AZI: Now this is not the incident that lead to your daughter’s suspension – right?
Hughes: “Yes that is correct, about a week or two later, one of the girls that had been giving our daughter a real rough time, walked up to her one morning and apologized and gave her (our daughter) a piece of candy. Our daughter was like – ‘Oh thank God, I don’t have to worry about her (the other girl) anymore.’
AZI: What kind of candy did your daughter receive from the ‘foe turned friend’ and did she (your daughter) eat the candy?
Hughes: “No, thank God, she did not. She put the piece of candy in her backpack and went to her next class, ironically another male student, looked in her backpack and took that particular piece of candy that day. It was like Christmas candy – small in a wrapper. Like a jolly rancher.
AZI: Did your daughter know this student?
Hughes: “Well kind of, he was one of the male athletes or a kid everyone knew. They all know each other in part. They may not speak or act indifferently toward someone but they all know each other.
AZI: Had the male student ever gone in your daughter’s pack back to her knowledge looking for candy or snacks?
Hughes: “According to our daughter, he had never gone in her pack back to her knowledge.
AZI: So in effect, a female student that did not get along or treat your daughter friendly – one day comes up and offers her candy (a peace offering – an olive branch)?
Hughes: “Yes, that is exactly how we perceived it. And this girl did the same thing the next day; giving my daughter a few pieces of this candy……My daughter had not had any problems at the school. But now she was being called a drug supplier or someone that had the “get high” candy.
AZI: What happened next?
Hughes: Well a few days or the following week, I get a call from the principal saying that my daughter is in possession of a narcotic drug – in the form of candy and she will not give it to us. The principal said they handle matters like this at school and the police would not be called if we came down and had our daughter give up the candy.
Hughes: “We could not get to the school fast enough. The principal met me and our daughter was in the office. The principal informed us that they had learned from someone that our daughter was in possession of “the get high candy.”
“I told him this was absurd, our daughter does not do drugs. The principal stated that a few students had informed him and other staff – that they (the students) had gotten “candy” from their (the Hughes) daughter.
“We asked who these “other persons” were and if they had also been called into the office? No other students were in the office but our daughter.
The police were eventually called and questioned the young lady who was suspended from school for (9) days. The principal informed the Hughes that several students were “high” in the school as a result of their daughter’s distribution of the “candy.”
Hughes: “The school told us they had drug tested several students and they were high on the candy that they received from our daughter. We were not informed who brought the charges against our daughter or why she was the only student suspended.
“My wife took our daughter back to the school and met with the assistant principal – informing her, we also wanted our daughter drug tested to prove she does not use drugs. The principal intervened and said the school does not drug test. We were told the other students had been drug tested by the school at the school?
AZI: Is your daughter back in school at this time?
Hughes: “Yes, the school wanted us to enroll her at an alternative school for students that had issues with the law and other matters. We said absolutely not, our daughter has not had any issues until this matter. We enrolled her somewhere else.
“This is another example of the treatment our children are getting in schools across this city. They are being charged, tried and sentenced, without a fair opportunity to speak,” Said Maricopa NAACP Branch President Rev. Oscar Tillman.
“It is a crying shame when a young person can’t go to school to get an education but have to deal with the issues they are faced with on a regular basis. Here is a young girl that was minding her own business and jealousy and other issues enter in.
“The student that made the accusations no doubt felt threatened by this young ladies ability in the classroom and in athletic competition and felt she had to neutralizer her. The minds of youth today.”