Their daughter had just been posting on Snapchat about her support for the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem when she came downstairs to tell her dad, R.J. King, that she was afraid for her life.
Caught off guard, King asked her what had happened, and she showed him her cellphone. A message from a fellow classmate at The Woodlands High School was on the screen: "yall always gotta be starting shit [sic]. we should have hung all u n——— while we had the chance and trust me it would make the world better."
"I had to read it three or four times before I could actually believe what I was reading," King said.
King and his wife, Latoika, immediately alerted the administration at The Woodlands High School, and were assured that action would be taken. But just a couple of days later, they got an email from Principal Jill Houser about what exactly was being done: The principal was offering their daughter crisis counseling services, promising to take the male student out of her classes to ensure they wouldn't have contact at school — and if she was still feeling unsafe, another option was that she could transfer to another school in the district. (The email from Houser was provided to the Houston Press.)
For a second time, the Kings couldn't believe what they were reading.
"This was a serious threat, so we thought we were going to get a serious response," R.J. King said. "We thought the only way to ensure that that situation was handled was that he be removed from that school, because he may put her at risk and also other students of African-American descent at risk. When we weren't getting a response as far as what was going to be done, it threw us for a loop."
On Wednesday, R.J. and Latoika King aired their complaints about the school's lack of action following the overtly racist comments at a press conference hosted by their attorney, Randall Kallinen, and with support from various civil rights groups. Kallinen has not taken any legal action, but will be present when the Kings attend administrative hearings with Conroe Independent School District administrators in which they are seeking more serious discipline for the boy who sent the messages.
In a statement, the Conroe Independent School District said privacy matters prevented administrators from telling the press details about what action was being taken, but assured reporters that the situation was being handled. (Latoika King said administrators also told her and R.J. that "student confidentiality laws" prevented them from sharing too many details with the parents at first about the student at issue and the school's plans for discipline.)
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"Although the comments made on Snapchat occurred over a weekend and not on campus, Conroe ISD does not tolerate behavior of this type," the statement said. "The campus administered several levels of disciplinary consequences and continues to work with the students involved and their parents. Due to privacy laws, the campus cannot share all of the steps it has taken, but campus and District administration are committed to providing safe and caring learning environments for all of our students. Furthermore, reinforcing respect for others and building unity continues to be a top priority across our campuses as it is in our communities, and we are researching additional resources to support our students with these essential life principles."
Latoika King said the Woodlands High School principal's course of action — moving around the boy's schedule so the students wouldn't have contact — has already failed. Earlier Wednesday morning, she said, she received a text from her daughter, informing her that the boy was right in front of her.
"We responded like, where are you? Are you OK?" Latoika King said. "But, of course, she's in school so a couple of hours go by before we get a response from her that, yeah, I'm OK. Sending your child to school, you shouldn't have to worry about their safety."
The Kings moved to The Woodlands from Michigan a year ago, and said that before they came here, their daughter had never experienced racism at school. The first time was this past year, when Latoika King said a student told their daughter in class that he heard Trump was sending people back where they came from — was she worried about going back to Africa? She had called her parents crying, Latoika King said.