By KELLY HUMPHREY | Daily News
Published: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 05:03 PM.
The Okaloosa County branch of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP is hosting a town hall meeting at 1 p.m. Saturday at New Life Missionary Baptist Church in Crestview.
Dale Landry, the organization’s vice president, said the meeting was prompted by a situation involving a military family in Baker who reported numerous instances of what they determined to be racial harassment and intimidation of their teenage sons at Baker School.
“We want to give other community members, especially our military families, the opportunity to speak out and share information if they have had similar experiences,” he said.
According to Landry, during the past school year, the boys were subjected to physical assaults, racial name calling and a threat in which one boy was shown a photo of a Ku Klux Klan member holding a noose.
“The child was told, ‘This is what is going to happen to you,’” Landry said. “There is a sickness in the Okaloosa County School District, and it’s our children who are suffering.”
Efforts to meet with school district officials concerning the problem were not effective, Landry said.
“If anything, it made things worse,” he stated. “This first came to our attention back in November. Since then, the family’s home has been burglarized, and the father has been followed in a threatening manner by an unknown person driving a large pickup truck.”
The latest incident, which Landry said happened about two weeks ago, prompted NAACP officials to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tallahassee on Friday.
Landry said they have also contacted the FBI.
Henry Kelley, a spokesperson for the Okaloosa County School District, responded to the NAACP’s charges by stating the district does not tolerate harassment or discrimination among students or employees.
“There are School Board policies and procedures in place to provide protection and to deal with these issues,” he said. “The OCSD cannot comment on specific student issues, but each and every incident this family has brought to our attention was handled in a timely manner and in accordance with School Board policies and procedures.”
Kelley said Mary Beth Jackson, the school district superintendent, has participated at two recent NAACP town hall meetings, and the district will be represented at Saturday’s event.
Complaints of racial bias against the school district are not unprecedented. In 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights after investigating allegations of discriminatory disciplinary practices against black students.
Landry indicated that representatives from the service member’s command attended one of the meetings with the school district.
“Our military needs to step up to protect our service members’ families,” he said. “How can we expect them to deploy to fight the enemy, when their families are fighting their own enemy at home?”
Want to go?
New Life Missionary Baptist Church is located at 285 Duggan Ave. in Crestview.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Kelly Humphrey at 850-315-4443 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kellyhnwfdn.