MONROE, Wash. - Stephanie Holliman has been through a lot. The single mother or four has rebounded after her apartment burned down a few years ago, but after her son became the focus of a racist viral video, she’s ready to pack up and leave Monroe.
"They don’t want us here," she told FOX 13 with fresh tears on her cheek. "They’ve shown us."
Holliman’s oldest son, KJ, was at school in early November when he tried to confront another student over a bullying situation. Things escalated – in the end, KJ ended up getting hit in the face with a water bottle and called the n-word repeatedly. Meanwhile, one of the students that was involved was relaying threats from someone over a phone. The entire thing was caught on camera.
"Her father is screaming over the phone, ‘when I see you out on the streets I’m going to kill you, you effing n-word,’" said Erica Henry, KJ’s godmother. "And she took pictures of him and sent it to him."
Monroe Police can’t confirm who was on the other end of the phone, but a spokesperson told FOX 13 that they are looking into the entire incident as a hate crime. When the investigation wraps up, they expect to forward the findings to the juvenile prosecuting attorney in Snohomish County.
Holliman says more needs to be done. She wants a restraining order against the man on the other end of the phone, and she wants the school to do better at addressing what’s unfolded. So far, she hasn’t even been told the name of the adult that was on the phone – while the District’s actions have left her wanting more accountability.
Dr. Justin Blasko, the Monroe School District Superintendent, wrote a letter to parents shortly after the incident saying that he was devastated by the "hatred and intolerance" displayed before promising more actions to come.
"That said, it is apparent that our efforts to date have not extinguished these situations and the event that occurred this week serves as a stark reminder of our duty and moral obligation to refocus our efforts, revise our strategies, and recommit ourselves to ensuring all of our students, families and neighbors are welcome, safe and feel like they belong to our school community," wrote Dr. Blasko.
Holliman said the racism has been apparent to anyone willing to look at it for some time. Her best friend – KJ’s godmother – removed her own son from the District several years ago because of her child’s racist run-ins at his school.
"If you ask Black families living in Snohomish County this is going to be a common thing – they’re all going to give you a similar story, or something like that," said Henry. "There’s nothing ever done. Especially for children. The white community acts like they don’t know anything about it until they see the video, but it’s always been this way."
As for KJ, and his mother, they’re planning to leave the school and the city. Holliman says that the verbal threat tied to her son’s picture being taken escalates things to another level – she’s spent the past few days living in hotels to ensure her family is safe. The money, which was offered up through a nonprofit, has run out. Now she’s looking to make a permanent move.
"It’s annoying that I can’t go to school or go to work – or just teenage stuff because of what’s going on," said KJ. "It’s scary because they can give that (photo) to anybody, or anyone. I don’t know everyone in Monroe, so I don’t know who to look out for. I have to watch my back every second. After that, I’m not comfortable here – not anymore."
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