Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer said his department is investigating an alleged racist incident that happened at Minooka Community High School last month.
Meyer confirmed that the family of the alleged victim filed a police report earlier this week.
TeSaxton Washington, 47, said another student made a racist threat toward her son, a senior at the school who is multiracial, on Nov. 26. Her son, who wished not to be named for this story, said he jokingly went to eat a cookie cake the other student had brought for the class and the other student threatened to “lynch” him if he touched it.
Washington’s son said he responded to the classmate by telling him the threat was racist and at least one other classmate spoke up against the alleged comment. The teacher was not in the classroom at the time of the comment, Washington’s son said.
Another student was reportedly so disturbed by the threat that the student alerted the school administration through an anonymous online tip. Minooka School District 111 said in a news release that it received an anonymous tip regarding a “racially charged statement made by a student.”
The school administration “took immediate action to investigate and promptly administered appropriate discipline to the student involved,” and worked with the school resource officer, according to the release.
When asked for specifics about the incident, District 111 Superintendent Kenneth Lee said, “I just have to stick with our press release on that. I just really don’t want to give any further information.” Lee added he was not going to “refute” anything Washington and her son said about the incident.
School administrators began speaking with students in the class and eventually spoke with Washington’s son a few times to corroborate what they were hearing from other students about what happened. Washington said her son may have not at first grasped the severity of the situation, and he said he was “shocked that it was blowing up.”
Washington’s son said that it wasn’t the first time his classmate made a racist comment toward him. He said his classmate had targeted him with racial slurs multiple times throughout the semester, which he routinely tried to disregard.
That afternoon, Washington received a call from a school administrator who told her what happened to her son, and that it wasn’t the first time. Washington said she was shocked to hear this, as her son hadn’t told her about the previous incidents.
Washington said she called her son to ask him what happened. She said she later tried to explain to him the seriousness of the situation because her son can be “aloof.”
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Washington said she didn’t want to overwhelm her son with questions, but the family came to the conclusion they wanted something done.
“This is a hate crime,” she said. “The school needs to be held accountable and take some responsibility in properly handling it.”
She said that because this had been the latest of multiple racist incidents directed by the other student toward her son, that established a pattern of behavior showing it wasn’t just a joke.
Washington said that she took issue with how the school handled the situation. She said the school resource officer should have done more.
Meyer said that after the school administrators gathered information about the incident, they gave it to the school resource officer, who is a member of the Minooka Police Department. He said that based on that information, the officer determined that no further work was needed.
Meyer said the officer determined that Washington’s son hadn’t felt “threatened or offended” by the alleged comment. But because the family filed a police report about the incident this week, his department will follow up with an investigation.
Washington disagreed with that reasoning and wants criminal charges brought.
“A crime was still committed,” she said.
Meyer said investigators will pass along evidence they collect to the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges, but he wouldn’t elaborate on what types of charges.