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Ladue police investigating black student's claim of being burned; high school students protest

During a Nov. 15 Ladue school board meeting, Tajah Walker discussed being the victim of racist harassment at Ladue Horton Watkins High School.
Lawrence Bryant | St. Louis American
At a Ladue School Board meeting Tuesday, Tajah Walker discussed being the victim of race-based harassment at Ladue Horton Watkins High School.

Ladue police are investigating an incident where a black student at Ladue Horton Watkins High School was allegedly burned by a white student with a glue gun at school on  Nov. 10, two days after Donald Trump was elected U.S. president following a racially divisive campaign.

Ladue Police Chief Rich Wooten told The American that the youth’s mother, Lynette Hamilton, reported the incident and police are “currently investigating.”

On Tuesday Hamilton said, in a Facebook post, that her son, whom she did not name, “was cornered in the classroom by a Caucasian student, antagonized and taunted with a hot glue gun.” She posted a photograph of his arm with a severe burn, which she described as a “third-degree” burn. She also said the white student squeezed hot glue on her son’s chair and he was burned again when he unknowlingly sat in the chair.

Hamilton said she went to the high school the day after the incident and demanded a meeting with Principal Brad Griffith, but was told she needed to schedule an appointment. She said that, as of her post on Tuesady, she had not yet heard back from the principal.

St. Louis Public Radio contacted the Ladue School District on Wednesday, and a communications staff member said the district was working on a statement. This report will be updated to reflect their response when one is received.

“This is sickening, what is happening to our children and the response and action the district is taking when it comes to African-American students,” Hamilton posted. “It saddens me.”

Dozens of Ladue high School students participated in a school walkout and march Wednesday, responding to this and other reported racist incidents that took place following the shocking presidential election.

Also on Nov. 10, a group of white students reportedly chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump,” toward black students on a Ladue school bus. One white male took the hazing further and said all black students should “sit in the back of the bus,” according to Tajah Walker, 15, who was targeted in the incident.

Two students were disciplined for their actions. However, Walker said during Wednesday’s protest that one of the students who were disciplined happily bragged about no longer being suspended on Monday because his mother “got him out of it.”

“I literally had a mental breakdown in the middle of the school day yesterday,” Walker told students at Wednesday’s walkout.

On Tuesday, a day before the walkout, at the district's school board meeting,  Walker and others addressed racial tensions in the district. St. Louis County NAACP officials attended the school board meeting.

After meeting with other parents, Hamilton said she was told of race-based incidents that had occurred before Trump’s election and campaign.

“After an anti-racism/bullying meeting today,” she posted Tuesday, “I learned that this problem has been in this district for years and years now. With little to no consequences. Get to the back of the bus, being burned and being told get on the ship to go back to Africa is just a piece of what this district has been going on and [they] try to sweep it all under the rug.”

Shante Lyons, American history and African-American studies teacher at the high school, counseled the students at the rally.

“We need to be smart, we need to be proactive and we need to put ourselves in a space where we can be most successful, let our voices be heard,” Lyons said. “The people are hearing us. But we need to be focused right now. So what are the steps we can take to put us in the most productive situation possible?”

According to a Facebook Live stream, students are planning to protest every day. The next protest is scheduled for noon on Thursday.

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