Parents are outraged over an Alabama school district’s inaction after a Snapchat video circulated earlier this month showing a school board president’s son chanting “white power” and “kill all the n----rs” as another student filmed.
In an email to Cullman City School District Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff and members of the school board, Jocelyn Logan said she was “physically ill” when her son, a Black tenth-grader at Cullman High School, received the video from an indignant friend earlier this month.
“Cullman City Schools would clearly punish our son if he made a video threatening the white students of Cullman High School,” she wrote in an email over the weekend. “My son is one of a handful of black children in the school. Tell me how he wouldn’t be threatened by KILL ALL THE Ns?! Explain to me how this is not a threat.”
Her message came after Kallhoff told another parent, in an email obtained by The Daily Beast, that the district’s hands were tied because the video was recorded off campus.
Logan told The Daily Beast on Thursday that she and her husband, who are both white, struggled over whether to enroll their son in the school district due to an embedded history of racism in the predominantly white “sundown town”—areas known for becoming dangerous to Black people after sunset—where her son has repeatedly endured racist remarks during his four years as a student in the district.
“It’s not like they will do anything about it,” Logan said her son told her, before she approached the school board and called on the school district’s president Amy Carter to resign. The Daily Beast is withholding students’ names to protect their privacy.
Carter didn’t respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment about her son’s alleged behavior. But she told Logan and AL.com that her son was mimicking a TikTok video and, despite appearing to look into the camera, wasn’t aware that he was being recorded until several days later when someone sent him the video on Snapchat.
She described her son to the outlet as having made an error of judgment, adding that he was “devastated that his words harmed other people.”
Logan said her son painted a different picture of the teen, alleging that he’d “bragged” that the punishment he had received following the video was having to run extra laps during basketball practice.
Expressing concerns about Carter’s dual role as the board’s president and the parent of a child embroiled in the incident, Logan said she is prepared to compel the board to act, writing in her email to board members that she intended to contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
“My child deserves to feel as safe in our schools as any of your children do,” she wrote. “It seems to me that this may be our only option as the system isn’t willing to protect all students. Honestly, at this point it isn’t just about my son. It is about all of the minority students in this system.”
According to Logan, her son has repeatedly been called the N-word in school. His classmates have also called him a monkey and have teased about “not seeing him in the dark” because of his skin color, she said.
During one of her son’s classes last year, Logan said a student used the name “Nick Gurr” on the game-based learning platform Kahoot. More recently, another parent had contacted her describing their child being ostracized at lunch for telling another student not to use the N-word, she said.
In previous instances, Logan said she had been assured by administrators that racism wouldn’t be tolerated at the school—but when her husband met with the school’s principal, he allegedly asked whether it mattered if students “use the hard R” when they referred to him their son by the racist slur.
“The history of racism in this community is so rampant that most Black people in the state of Alabama won’t even stop here for gas,” she said. “The school system owes it to all of their children—not just their minority children—to have a zero-tolerance policy for hate crimes of some sort.”
Logan, who is a third grade teacher in another school district, said that Cullman City School District’s efforts at “sweeping it under the rug, and covering it up and ignoring it,” are alarming because that could invite “future instances of violence.”
Both Kallhoff and Carter should resign, she said.
During a school board meeting on Tuesday, Kallhoff cited the state’s “intellectual freedom and non-discrimination” resolution, which grew out of an uproar over how race and racism are taught in Alabama classrooms. The resolution declares that educators shouldn’t teach concepts that cause people to “feel guilt or anguish” for the past based on their race, while also preaching the equality of all races and genders.
Logan described the superintendent at that meeting as both “nonchalant,” and “dismissive,” about the incident, which she believes could be addressed directly based on the Jamari Terrell Williams Act which targets cyberbullying, intimidation and violence both on school grounds and “between students while not on school property.” It urges local school boards to adopt policies to prevent bullying “based on the characteristics of a student.”
The Act was mentioned by another parent in the school district, Laura McHan-Doss, who first alerted the superintendent to the video in an email on Nov. 4 and demanded action. Kallhoff refused, suggesting that he believed the board lacked the authority to discipline students because the video was recorded off campus, but he said that he was seeking an opinion from the school system’s attorney “just to be sure.” McHan-Doss urged him to reconsider, telling him that some of the school’s few students of color “fear for their safety after seeing the video.”
“Please consider what this inaction on your part is saying to these kids,” she wrote.
McHan-Doss told The Daily Beast on Thursday that she had not heard back since her Nov. 11 email, and was “mortified but not surprised,” by the incident. She said she had hoped for decisive action—but the board’s excuse for its apparent inaction “was all a cop out.”
“We finally get a little bit of diversity and can’t handle it,” she said, adding that she was hopeful Kallhoff “would be as astonished and disgusted as we were, but his response was very flat.”
Last year, Kallhoff was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the family of a 9-year-old McKenzie Adams, a Black student whose parents believe she committed suicide after relentless bullying at an elementary school in western Alabama where Kalloff previously served as superintendent.
Kallhoff is accused of “deliberate and blatant indifference to the wrongful persistent bullying and harassment, rife with racial and gender-based slurs, imparted upon McKenzie by a boy who was her classmate,” according to the lawsuit.
Kallhoff declined to comment to The Daily Beast about the lawsuit and wouldn’t provide details regarding the nature of any investigation or disciplinary action, instead describing the video that had been brought to the attention of the school system as involving “racial statements off campus and away from school.”
“The Cullman City School System does not support racist statements nor condone racism or racially motivated hate statements. We have addressed this situation in adherence with our Board Policies and Student Code of Conduct. Due to federal and state regulations, we cannot and will not comment on any specific students or student disciplinary actions,” he wrote in a statement.
He added that the board was “currently consulting” with the Alabama State Department of Education staff and other state agencies for guidance on how to encourage acceptance in spite of differences.
Logan said on Thursday that it was only after her son had approached the ninth-grader featured in the video that the boy apologized for his actions. He later followed up with an apology by phone, but she said her son had not heard from anyone else involved.