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Madison Local Schools faces charges of not addressing repeated racist incidents

Madison Pre-school sign
Conor Morris
Ideastream Public Media
The sign at Madison Pre-School in Madison in Lake County, where the Madison Local School Board of Education met this week.

A family in Lake County has pulled its daughter from Madison Local Schools after she experienced a slew of alleged racist incidents at her former middle school, after only attending the school for a few months.

Niyjah Covington, whose mother is white and father is Black, said she’s been called multiple racial epithets by other students in the halls of Madison Middle School.

“I was called the N-word, a slave, a monkey,” Covington told Ideastream Public Media Tuesday.

Covington and her mother, Kelly Carrick, also said Covington recently had to confront a counselor for allegedly saying the “N” word in conversation with another student, and also alleged her school’s principal said the "N" word in front of her.

Covington had recorded the aftermath of her confronting the counselor in a video that's been shared dozens of times on Facebook. Superintendent Angela Smith said the district has "handled the situation with the counselor" in question after conducting an investigation into the incident. She declined to say whether the counselor is still employed.

Holly Moonwind, a concerned parent, told the Madison Local Schools Board of Education Tuesday night that multiple families of color have reported their children experiencing racist incidents at the school district. Board President Shawn S. Douglas told Moonwind the board would look into it. Smith said parents should reach out to their building principals if they have concerns, and if they feel they aren't being listened to, they should call her office.

"I want students to feel safe in school," Smith said.

Moonwind said the district desperately needs an initiative aimed at eliminating racism and aimed at beefing up reporting, transparency and communication measures with students and staff when incidents of racism are reported. She said she’s learned of at least one other family who pulled a child out of the district due to weather racist insults at school.

“In Madison schools specifically, we have seen a growing number of incidents fueled by racism,” she told the board. “Incidents that involve, but are not limited to, racial slurs being yelled at students in the middle school hallways between class changes, and the use of racial slurs by a formerly trusted school counselor.”

Carrick, Covington’s mom, said she pulled her out of school because it didn’t seem like anything would ever change at the school district.

“We did everything that the school had told us to do while she was in it,” she said. “With reporting it, they wanted us to report it, where it happened, when it happened, who was around to witness it, who heard it. We did all that and nothing was done.”

Copies of emails between Carrick and the counselor accused of saying the “N” word show the counselor responding that the incidents reported by Carrick were "not an acceptable situation in any way." But the counselor also told Carrick that if a student is disciplined for racist remarks, the district won’t share the specifics with anyone other than the disciplined student’s family.

Covington said she hoped the district recruits more staff of color, which would have some impact on these issues. She said she would like to see more students of color there as well. And her mom said she hoped people educate themselves and become more open-minded.

This story was updated to include

Updated: March 13, 2023 at 3:06 PM EDT
This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. on March 13 with comments from Superintendent Angela Smith.
Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.