EDMOND, Okla. — When Melisa Shirley sent her black son to school yesterday morning, she never imagined receiving such a heartbreaking call later in the day. Her 13-year-old son Latrell, a Heartland Middle School student in the Edmond Public Schools district, called his mother emotionally distressed. His white teacher and classmates targeted him for hearing his culturally affirming “Black King” shirt during February. Notably, February is widely commemorated as Black History Month. Latrell has several culturally affirming t-shirts that are popular among Black Americans, especially during February.
“Mom, you aren’t going to believe what happened to me,” are the first words he uttered through video chat. His mother explained, “When he originally called, I was at work. He was very upset. I could tell something was wrong immediately.”
The teen then explained to his mother that his 7th-grade science teacher, Ms. Rachel Brainard, who is white, berated and accused him of racism for wearing an African-American culturally affirming t-shirt. His white classmates joined in berating him. It was a birthday gift from his mother on Saturday. He was eager to wear it.
Latrell had explained that before the incident, multiple students including one of the school’s principals complimented him on his culturally affirming t-shirt. Those feelings from the assistant principal and his peers in the hallway, unfortunately, evaporated in Science class.
Shirley said that “when he got into his 7th-grade Science class, the teacher looked at his shirt and said that his shirt was racist, in front of his [white] peers.” She specified that the teacher also “stated that if she were to wear a shirt that said White Queen, you guys would have an uproar,” adding “there needs to be a white history month.” Affirming and teaching black history in public schools has always been met with resistance, which is why many schools across the Nation intentionally teach and acknowledge Black history in February.
Social Mob Led by Culturally Incompetent Teacher
Ms. Shirley says that her son explained that multiple white students jumped into the conversation in agreement with the teacher’s racially ignorant statements. Latrell told his mother that out of all his white classmates, only one of them came to his defense.
“They were all calling my son a racist. Saying that yes, there should be a white history month. All agreeing with the teacher,” said Ms. Shirley. “Not only was my son bullied by his classmates, but also an educator.”
Ms. Shirley says that she hasn’t spoken face-to-face with the school’s administration, but said she has a meeting with the school’s principal tomorrow morning.
The Viral Facebook Post
Since the incident, Ms. Shirley took to Facebook to shine a light on the incident her son experienced in the place she had hoped he’d feel safe in. The post has since gone viral. She explained that since posting, multiple parents are approaching her with similar stories and experiences occurring with the same teacher.
“A handful of parents have in-boxed me, called me, and told me that they’ve had similar experiences with this particular teacher, all minority children. All stated that they brought this to the attention of the principals, school board, and nothing was done. It was all brushed. Also, I had a parent who stated that she requested a transfer. She stated that her daughter was being treated very badly by this same teacher and nothing was done. They are happy to see that this particular teacher, her racism, her prejudices are coming to light. ”