Yorktown eighth grader writes letter addressing racism at school

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Yorktown, Va. - Za'Khari Waddy's letter started off as any ordinary letter might with a simple "to whom it may concern," but his message was much more than that to him. It's therapeutic, his way of getting the racism he's faced at Tabb Middle School off his chest.

"He then started saying he does not like blacks and he told me 200 years ago my ancestors hung from a tree, and after that he said I should too," Waddy writes in the letter, recounting an experience he had with a classmate on a school bus.

The letter was to the administrators at Tabb Middle School. He and his mom say not enough has been done to address the racism he's faced. "I'm at my boiling point because when I bring it to the office/principal you do nothing about it and I'm tired of the racism," writes Waddy.

The eighth grader says it's been a problem for him the past three years at the school. "It makes me feel like I don't belong there, but I belong there. I deserve to be there as much as they deserve to be there."

His mom wants tougher penalties for the students who bully her son, and hopes the school division will have some sort of discussion to show others how painful the words can be. "I think they should bring all the children together and implement something that would show them that although they're of different skin tones, they're all similar," said Zettrona Powell, Waddy's mom.

In response, the York County School Division sent this statement:

"The York County School Division is aware of the concerns raised by a middle school parent and reported in a national media outlet. We take this matter seriously, as we do all student concerns brought to our attention. Allegations of this nature are deeply concerning and the identified behaviors are unacceptable.

We would like to assure our community that the school administration took immediate steps to investigate the report and that appropriate disciplinary actions were taken in accordance with the division’s student conduct code, division policies, and procedures.

As federal laws that protect student privacy restrict school staff from providing information regarding individual students or specific disciplinary matters, we are not able to share additional information on the actions taken by staff in this case. However, the range of consequences outlined in our student conduct code can include shortterm suspension, long-term suspension, alternate placement, and expulsion.

The York County School Division believes every student is entitled to a safe and welcoming school environment free from discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying. Racism and bullying have no place in our schools and will not be tolerated. Students are given information and counseling on appropriate and acceptable behavior throughout the school year. Additionally, every staff member in the division is required to participate in annual anti-bullying training.

We recognize that racism, bullying and other issues impact our entire school community. Our division leadership team will continue to work closely with school administrators to address the concerns of our students and families. We encourage any students, parents, or staff members to share their concerns with their school administrator or via the anonymous hotline, 890-5000, or through the Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination form available on the division website."

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