The local chapter of the NAACP wants the alleged harassment of a former 14-year-old black Lexington Catholic student by a member of the high school’s football team to be investigated as a hate crime.
The Lexington-Fayette County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released a statement late Saturday.
The Key Newsjournal reported Wednesday that Denisha Vinegar said she found threatening messages to her son DaMarco on his computer. Vinegar said the messages included a threat of lynching and comments telling her son to pick cotton or sell crack to make money, according to The Key Newsjournal report.
Lexington police charged a 17-year-old Lexington Catholic student Thursday with harassing communications and third-degree terrorist threatening. The 14-year-old has transferred to another school.
The NAACP said in a written statement that because the remarks were racially motivated, the issue should be treated as a hate crime.
“It is our contention that the criminal acts of this individual led to a charge of harassing communications was racially motivated and falls under the KRS definition of a hate crime, “ the statement read. “Therefore, the local branch of the NAACP strongly recommends that Larry Roberts, Fayette County Attorney (pursuant to KRS 532.031 Hate Crime) refer this case to the Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office as a hate crime.”
Roberts’ office currently is handling the case.
Meanwhile, Lexington Catholic school officials said the 17-year-old has been suspended until a school investigation was completed.
Lexington Catholic officials also have said they plan to increase diversity and sensitivity training at the school. School president Steve Angeluuci said in a statement Friday that the “image of Lexington Catholic presented in the article does not accurately reflect the culture of faith, caring and kindness we foster at our school. ...What actually occurred and how this situation has been handled differs in some important ways from how it was described.”
Angelucci did not elaborate on what those differences were. Roger Cleveland, an Eastern Kentucky University associate professor, will provide the school with training and workshops. Angelucci said the incident involved social media contact after school hours.
“We have no control over what sutdents do on the internet,”Angelucci said. “Teenagers have become desensitized to hateful words and the staying power of social media and texting. We do have control oer hwo we respond to these challenges.”