FinalCall.com) - Two students were expelled and seven suspended from Wynne High School in Wynne, Ark., but parents of two Black boys, who were victims in what parents call an attempted lynching, are furious, saying justice has not been done and their fear for the safety of their children.
Cheryl Webster said all sorts of things went through her mind but she hadn’t imagined what she was told. Some boys tried to hang Mickey, her child, and his teammate, MaKye McDaniel, with a noose during football practice.
She is furious because of the assault, incensed that school officials waited three days to notify her, and outraged because they illegally questioned Mickey without her presence or knowledge, she told The Final Call. Oddly, before she even knew what was happening, the principal and assistant principal were profusely apologizing, she recalled.
“This is worse than what I even thought it could be. What if my child would have been hung? The first thing they would have said was my son committed suicide. What kind of sh—-t, I mean, stuff is that,” Ms. Webster said, restraining herself from cursing and struggling to speak through pain and anger.
She recounted her 14-year-old son’s ordeal: On Sept. 24, another student called him to the back of the weight room. One boy lifted him up while another tried to put a noose across his head and he had to fight them off, she said. “I don’t care if you’re White or Black. What happened to my son should never have happened,” Ms. Webster declared.
“I never thought this would happen, especially not to my son because he’s a good kid, a good student. I’ve never had these fears before but I’m always going to be concerned because you never know, it might happen again. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about my son being in school,” she added.
During an Oct. 3 school board meeting, Superintendent Carl Easley read a statement from the suspended boys’ families, according to TV station WPTY in Memphis. “They apologize for the embarrassment to the school district. They apologize for any embarrassment and heartache they have caused the students,” he said, in an article published on the WPTY television’s website. According to Fox affiliate in Memphis, school officials labeled the incident a case of “extreme bullying.”
Final Call phone requests for interviews with Mr. Easley and the Wynne Public School Board were not been returned. Supt. Easley did say the high school’s administration thoroughly investigated the incident and found no criminal conduct, according to news reports. Wynne, Ark., is about an hour away from Memphis.
“I don’t care what they say. You can talk it around and spin it around all you want. I do not consider that horseplay. It wasn’t a joke to me. It wasn’t a joke to my family. It wasn’t a joke to the community either. That’s my child’s life,” Ms. Webster told The Final Call.
She wants the White players involved dismissed for the rest of the academic year. And, Ms. Webster declares, if the situation were reversed, her Black son would have been put in jail. She and Mickey’s father are discussing next steps but, for now, they are taking great care to protect their son.
“I can only imagine what goes through his head walking down that hallway at school, with people asking, ‘Was that you, Mickey? Was that true?’ He just wants to be left alone,” Ms. Webster said.
Rod McDaniel and his wife want to file criminal charges, but they don’t trust local police. Mr. McDaniel also wonders if his history of outspokenness on racial issues led to the targeting of his son, MaKye. He had complained publicly about an incident with White police officers the previous week.
“We want number one accountability and full maximum penalty for hate crimes and being involved in any crime, expulsions for the assaults, resignations of both coaches, and we want two Black coaches to be put in the head and assistant coaches places,” he said.
According to Mr. McDaniel, his son said he and Mickey were in the field house weight room for football practice. Some White guys began saying “they were going to lynch and hang all n——s,” Mr. McDaniel solemnly recounted. The White students took shoelaces, made nooses, and then hung the shoelaces around the jerseys of Black players, he continued. They then took pants and bladder bags used for injuries, shoes, made a complete dummy, and hung the dummy, Mr. McDaniel said.
Then students took a rope tied into a noose and placed it around Mickey’s head but couldn’t tighten it, Mr. McDaniel said. When his son McKay, 14, jumped up and helped to fight the other boys off, two boys grabbed MaKye, took the rope off of Mickey’s neck and tried to place it around his, said the boy’s father.
MaKye was able to fight them off, Mr. McDaniel said.
“The first thing I thought was the safety of my children. My second reaction was I’m angry, very upset at the coaches and the school because they failed to protect my child,” Mr. McDaniel added.
According to Mr. McDaniel, no one from the school has reached out to his family except to say students were suspended. But even that response followed an e-mail from his wife asking what happened to their son, Mr. McDaniel explained.
Everyone involved in the incident is back at school and on the football team, except one boy, according to Mr. McDaniel. He suspects what he sees as lenient discipline may have happened because one boy involved is the son of a coach and another is the son of a school board member. “All of the boys’ parents are either affiliated with the school or local government,” he charged.
Calls to school officials were not returned to confirm or deny the allegation.
Mr. McDaniel is concerned for his son’s safety and the safety of the other Black students as they travel for remaining football games. He said he has no indication steps have been taken by the school or football team to make sure Black players are safe.
Wynne and its surrounding areas are saturated with members of the Ku Klux Klan, said Mr. McDaniel. He is fearful of how Black players could be treated during road trips and games.
“We’ve had the Klan march in our city twice. I’ve experienced it both times. I grew up fighting physical racial fights all my life so I’m no stranger to this type of hostile racial environment,” Mr. McDaniel said.
The incident has affected his family, Mr. McDaniel added. He suffers from anxiety and his wife is afraid to leave the house or work the family business, a sports bar and grill, he said.
“My concern is how will they treat these Black kids on and off the field? My son has to look over his shoulder. Will there be foul play on the field?” he asked.