A Greenfield High School parent is asking that the school’s athletic director be fired after her son said the director used a racial slur when speaking to him.
Beverly Juarez also said this isn’t the first such incident the athletic director has been involved in.
Juarez said her son, Omar Surveyor, told her that the school’s athletic director, Trent Lower, used the term “boy” in a racially derogatory manner multiple times at school on Jan. 26.
According to the NAACP, using the word “boy” to describe a Black person is widely recognized as deeply offensive and reflective of discriminatory intent. The term was regularly used to insult and demean Black men dating back to the time of slavery.
Juarez said the incident happened in the school lunchroom when Surveyor went to retrieve his phone from one of his basketball teammates.
“(Lower) told them, ‘Oh you’re going to be too long. No fooling around,’” Juarez said, recounting her son’s recollection of the incident. And Omar said ‘Why? I’m just trying to get my property back from my friend.’ He (Lower) said ‘That’s it, you’re coming with me, boy.’”
Juarez said other students at the lunch table and Surveyor told Lower not to call Surveyor that word.
“Then (Omar) said Trent (Lower) got really close up to his face and said, ‘Well, isn’t that what you want to be called now, isn’t it?”, like repeatedly calling him ‘boy,’ and Omar kept telling him, ‘Don’t call me that.’ He (Lower) challenged him to call me. He said, ‘You are just a little boy. Why don’t you just call your mom?’” Juarez said.
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Lower is white, and Surveyor is Black. Surveyor is also a member of the school’s varsity basketball team.
“My son actually really did call me, and I think Mr. Lower didn’t know that he had called at first, so I could hear the background noise,” Juarez said.
“And I heard Mr. Lower saying, ‘Well, you are a boy. You are just a little boy.’ He said ‘boy’ four or five times just during the time alone that I could hear.”
Juarez then had her son put her on speaker. She said she told him to go to the principal’s office and not to leave until she arrived.
Juarez said the school’s principal, Todd Willems, apologized to her son and that Willems said Lower admitted to using the slur multiple times. She also said Lower did not apologize.
“(Willems) explained that he couldn’t tell us what would happen, but that something would happen,” Juarez said.
In support of Surveyor, his Greenfield High School varsity basketball teammates wore T-shirts that said “My Name is not Boy” before the team’s game versus Cudahy on Tuesday.
The shirts were created by Rachaad Howard, who runs his own print and shirt shop, Cream City Print Lounge. His son graduated from Greenfield High School last year.
“My shop is all about speaking your voice, putting your voice on the T-shirt. We support equality, social justice, all that. It was just the perfect thing for us to do to help support that young man and get the word out about how change needs to happen in that high school,” Howard said.
A history of bullying
Juarez said this isn’t the first incident of bullying involving the athletic director.
“We have printed out emails, text messages, Facebook messages from parents telling us their stories and things that have happened on a one-off basis with their children. And some of the stories we were aware of, some we weren’t. But apparently the school was aware of it,” Juarez said.
“It’s an extended period of time where this man has displayed this behavior with several different students, several different parents,” Juarez said.
Jimmie Carter, a parent who also has a son on the basketball team, said he was shocked but not surprised about the recent incident involving Surveyor.
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“The Greenfield community, the Greenfield School District, is known for racism and discrimination against people of color,” Carter said. “It’s not a secret. It’s not something that they try to hide very well. It’s absolutely despicable. The point is, (Lower) isn’t really being held accountable for his actions because he’s still going to work every day.”
Juarez said she and other parents planned to participate in a listening session at the school with Willems and Lower at 3:30 pm Friday.
Greenfield School District communications coordinator Katie Kuchenreuther confirmed the meeting with parents in an email Friday. She said Lower and Willems would be there and that it would be attended only by invited families; it is not open to the media or the general public.
Lower did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting an interview.
Willems referred a reporter to a statement from Superintendent Lisa Elliott and said he had no other comment.
Willems “has met with students and parents who have expressed concerns about interactions they’ve had, or their children have had, with a staff member,” Elliott wrote in the statement,
“In each and every instance, Mr. Willems has met with the students and parents to hear their concerns. This is not only an expectation of any building principal, but a duty that Mr. Willems takes very seriously. Often these conversations touch on a variety of issues related to children and education, and the professionals responsible for the educational environment we provide,” Elliott said in an emailed statement.
Elliott also said the district could not comment on the specifics of conversations between parents, students and a principal.
“To the extent that information presented to the principal provides the basis for further investigation, it is addressed, and acted upon, promptly and thoroughly pursuant to School Board policies,” Elliott said.
Contact Alec Johnson at (262) 875-9469 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @AlecJohnson12.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Greenfield athletic director charged with calling Black student ‘boy’