A Black teenager in Fairfield, Connecticut, was the target of a racist Snapchat post allegedly made by a classmate earlier this month, according to the teen’s mother and the Fairfield Police Department.
Sixteen-year-old Jamar Medor was sitting in his Fairfield Warde High School homeroom on May 7 when a classmate, who is White, allegedly took a Snapchat picture of Medor from behind, circling Medor and writing, “Why is there a n***er in my homeroom?” along with another line that said, “Why is he not in chains?,” according to Medor’s mother, Judith.
Jamar didn’t even know about the Snapchat post until a classmate brought it to his attention, his mother told CNN Thursday. After the post was reported to the Fairfield Warde principal, she said Jamar was called into the principal’s office where he called her.
“When I saw the post, I was really in a state of shock,” Judith Medor said. “I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know where to begin.”
The Fairfield Police Department arrested the classmate, according to Joseph T. Corradino, State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield. The Hartford Courant reported that the 16-year-old student accused of making the Snapchat post was charged with breach of peace, and a more controversial charge of “ridicule on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race,” a misdemeanor offense unique to Connecticut.
Fairfield Police Chief Robert Kalamaras confirmed that the student implicated was issued a juvenile summons but referred CNN to the Superior Court of Connecticut juvenile court, which declined to comment, for any further details.
Judith Medor told CNN Thursday that she was told the student who created the post is White, was suspended and will likely be expelled. Fairfield Public Schools declined to offer specifics on any students implicated in the incident.
Even with that student’s potential expulsion, Medor said she remains unsure of whether her sons can stay safe in Fairfield Public Schools. Her younger son, Jake, who attends a different high school in Fairfield, received an unsolicited FaceTime call the weekend immediately following the post against Jamar, in which he was allegedly called the N-word before the caller hung up the phone, she said.
Fairfield Warde Principal Paul Cavanna issued a statement on May 7 to the school community, in which he said that “discrimination in any form is not tolerated” in the school.
“We strongly believe that racism has no place here or anywhere in our society,” he wrote. “We are working to support those who have been affected by this reprehensible act.”
Fairfield Public Schools Superintendent Mike Cummings also sent a letter to the district on May 12, in which he acknowledged there is still work to do in preventing incidents like this from happening again.
“As we continue our equity work as a district, we recognize that this is a journey, not a destination,” Cummings wrote. “There will be missteps along the way, and while we are extremely disturbed by these incidents, they provide learning that can and will inform our work.”
Alleged hate speech, or a hate crime?
Medor said she met with the school principal and superintendent on Monday, May 17, and said she was pleased with how they have responded to the incidents. Both Jamar and Jake have since received police officer escorts in and out of the building and from class to class, but she said Jamar has stayed home from school on occasion because he still feels unsafe.
“Jamar has been having nightmares and doesn’t always feel comfortable in this school,” she said. “(The incident has received) too much attention. He gets many questions so he feels very overwhelmed and uncomfortable.”
The charge of “ridicule on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race” that the unnamed 16-year-old student faces stems from a 1917 law that critics say violates the First Amendment’s right to protected speech, even if that includes hate speech.
David McGuire, the executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, told CNN in a statement that it supports the protection of all students learning “free from harassment and safe from harm,” but it criticized the way the school decided to hold the student accountable.
“Preventing violence means stopping it at the root, including by ending things like white supremacy, and not going back to the same criminal legal systems that have been proven to not work, including through likely unconstitutional laws,” McGuire said. “We encourage all schools to look into restorative justice models that empower students, including victims of harm, to create safe learning communities, and it is encouraging that this may already be happening in this case.”
Rev. Stanley Lord, the president of the Greater Bridgeport branch of the NAACP, has been advising the Medor family in the aftermath of the event and told CNN Thursday that he believes the White student should have been charged with a felony hate crime instead of a misdemeanor.
“What happened in that classroom was not just,” Lord said. “So yes, this man does not deserve a misdemeanor. He needs to feel the pain, the pain that we feel when people try to equate us to stuff like that. ‘Cause there’s no way he’s gonna go somewhere where someone can do something like that. He doesn’t hurt just one child. He’s now hurt a community, a number of communities.”
The Medors try to move forward
Judith Medor said she is relieved there are only about three weeks left in the school year but said she is considering transferring her sons to another school in the next academic year. She told CNN her oldest son went to Notre Dame High School, a private school in Fairfield, and she has thought about sending Jamar and Jake there moving forward.
Medor said she has lived in Fairfield for 14 years and before these incidents involving her sons, she had never felt unsafe in her community. Now, she is re-evaluating her safety, and even though she has felt supported by the local community, she still feels that, as a single mother, she has to take added measures to ensure her family remains safe.
“I’m constantly checking on (my kids), ‘are you okay, are you all right,’” she said. “When they go out and I don’t see them, I’m worried. I’m living constantly worried and in fear.”
Medor said she has looked into installing a security system in her home, something she never dreamed of needing for the past 14 years. She said she cannot forgive the student who made the Snapchat post and holds his family accountable as well.
“I have to blame the parents because that’s the way he’s probably been raised,” she said. “Racism has probably been taught in the home. He was not born racist. Racism is not genetic, that’s a behavior you learn. That’s my understanding of it. I have to blame the parents. They should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.”