Racial Harassment Investigated at Jersey Shore Area

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When an African-American student at Jersey Shore Area High School turned on his school computer last week he said a racially-charged picture popped up on the screen.

The student's mother claims the incident proves the school system's bullying policy does not go far enough to stop students from taunting her son who is the only African-American student at Jersey Shore Area High.

A community's charm and breathtaking views drew college literature professor Laurie Cannady to Avis borough in Clinton County.

"It's so peaceful. You come out at night and look up and hear the crickets and see the stars," Cannady said of her community.

She said her teenage son, Dereck, however, heard and saw things much uglier at nearby Jersey Shore Area High School for the last couple of years.

"I don't know how does as well as he does, knowing when he goes to school somebody's going to try to touch him on his head, somebody's going to call him the 'n' word," said Cannady.

Dereck's problems escalated last month when, he said, someone left a hand-drawn figure of what appeared to be a black man being lynched on his desk. Dereck said the teacher simply took the paper away, telling his parents the kids were planning a game of hangman.

Laurie Cannady said the situation spun out of control last week when, the school system admits, a student left a picture of a Ku Klux Klan cross burning on Dereck's desktop while others hung around to watch his reaction.

"They thought it would be funny. I'm not saying the kids are malicious, I don't think the parents are malicious. I think that kids can be really mean sometimes," Cannady said.

"It sickens me. It really makes me wonder what is going on with people today," Dereck said. "What causes somebody to be so ignorant, to want to deliberately want to hurt somebody, or make them want to cry, or make them unsure of who they are?"

"Our district's kind of naïve to dealing with diversity, because we haven't had a lot of diversity as of yet," said Jersey Shore Area Superintendent Richard Emery.

He admits this is a new situation, but he promises there will be no tolerance for racism in class.

"We're not totally finished with the incident we're referring to, and looking at the discipline that's going to be handed out. At this point, I would say, right now, we have taken the initial steps," Emery added.

Laurie Cannady's patience is wearing out. She thought of moving her family to another school district but she said Avis and its people have made everything, other than her son's high school, a great place to live.

"We belong here, and we deserve to be here just like anyone else," said Cannady.

The Cannady's took their case to local police, where investigators said ethnic harassment charges are pending against one of the students involved in downloading the offending photograph.