Protesters ring local school

(Photo by Kristen Singletary)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) About 100 protesters gathered for about two hours Friday afternoon in downtown Waco outside Live Oak Classical School, which the mother of a 12-year-old black student says she's going to sue over a rope burn her daughter received while on a school campout.

Sandy Rougely’s lawsuit against the school will allege that her daughter was the victim of racially-motivated bullying by her sixth grade classmates that had gone on for months, and that white students placed a rope around the girl’s neck as the youngsters played during the April 28 campout at a ranch in Blanco County.

The protesters, some carrying signs, chanted such things as “Black power,” “No justice, no peace,” and “Who’s her family, we’re her family.”

The protest, organized by the Black Women’s Defense League of Dallas, which says it wants answers about the April 28 incident, which it called an “attempted lynching" involving three white teenage boys.

"So as concerned citizens we come from Dallas just to to get answers, why, if this had been three black boys and a white girl they would've been in prison already. So why is it that these boys don't get any punishment for bullying this little girl," protester Lele Marie said.

The organization says it has provided food, clothing, domestic violence assistance and a number of other much needed resources weekly to families of color all over Dallas since its inception in 2015,” and says its mission is “to foster a sense of community and solidarity.”

Classes at the school ended Thursday instead of Friday.

The protest shut down classes on what was suppose to be the school's last day.

The protest later moved up Austin Avenue.

Some protesters were shaking their fists at passing motorists at 17th Street and Austin, a local resident

Protesters were later reported in a residential neighborhood in the area of 38th Street and Austin.

But some locals said they don't like the way the group was going about voicing their concerns.

"These people travel down here from Dallas and although their support is commended, we're all trying to bring just conclusion to this incident that happened to a 12-year-old girl is what we should focus on. These people are not focusing on that and it's giving the city a very bad light," Malachi Quietus Khan said.

School trustee Jeremy Counseller said last week the girl was injured accidentally by a rope swing and accused Rougely's attorney of exploiting the accident for financial gain.

Rougely, who was not called about the injury, told the newspaper she took her daughter to an emergency room after the girl returned from the camping trip, the newspaper reported.

A CT scan was performed because the girl complained of neck and shoulder pain and a doctor prescribed a prescription antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen and an inhaler, the paper said.

In a statement issued on May 20 to KWTX, the school said it was contacted two weeks ago by Rougely’s attorney, who claimed the girl’s injuries “were the result of a racially motivated intentional attack."

Rougely’s attorney, Levi G. McCathern II of Dallas, sent the school’s lawyer a letter in which he said, “We will resolve all claims against the school, students, teachers, parents, the ranch owners, and all of their employees and all of their employees, agents, and representatives for $2,700,000.

The letter demanded payment by 5 p.m. May 11.

“Starting tomorrow evening I will need to start releasing information to media sources to coincide with the May 15th Centennial Anniversary we discussed,” which was an apparent reference to the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Jesse Washington, 17, who was brutally beaten, hanged, and burned alive on July 15, 1916 after being convicted of the murder of Robinson resident Lucy Fryer.

The school refused to comply with the demand.

“The facts establish that the injuries were wholly unrelated to any racial bias or prejudice and were the result of an accident,” the school’s statement said.

“The school interviewed all student eyewitnesses and teachers who were present and each independently established that the accusation made by the attorney is absolutely false. The injuries were caused accidentally while the students were playing with the swing and attached pull-rope,” the statement said.

“(McCathern) was advised of the results of the interviews,” the statement said.

“This is a young, African American girl in an almost all white school. She wound up on the ground at a school sponsored campout with a rope that was attached to a tree wrapped around her neck,” McCathern said in a statement to KWTX on May 20

“Despite the obvious injuries to her, no one at Live Oak contacted her mother or took her to a place to receive medical treatment. For Live Oak to bury their head in the sand and chalk this incident up to ‘kids being kids’ is irresponsible but unfortunately all too common,” he said.

“While our client and her mother are justifiably outraged by this incident and how it was handled by Live Oak, it was agreed that the media’s involvement would only happen if Live Oak refused to take responsibility for this incident. To that end, we requested an amount that would provide counseling and education and pay for some of the damages inflicted,” he said.

“Live Oak offered absolutely nothing in return - not even payment for the cost of the trip to the emergency room.”

(John Carroll and Brandon Marshall contributed to this story)