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Mom Demands School Do More To Address Racist Bullying Against Her Son

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Chaska mother says she is outraged that someone wrote the N-word on her son's shirt during gym class. Now, Chaska police are investigating.

Taylin Bursch grabbed his gym shirt from his locker at Chaska Middle School East Monday to find someone had written the N-word on it twice.

"I was worried, I felt really bad," Taylin said. "I was really mad about it, too."

And his parents were disgusted.

"For me to hear that he put the shirt on and that he was embarrassed, I think that's kind of when I broke down, that's when I lost it. It was tears instantly," said Ashleigh Bursch, Taylin's mother.

Taylin and Ashleigh Bursch Chaska Middle School Racist Message
Taylin and Ashleigh Bursch (credit: CBS)

Ashleigh says she got an email from an administrator quickly mentioning the incident. She says the response was not enough, and she had had enough so she turned to Facebook.

"I was scared to post it, I didn't know the type of response I would get. So, to feel how much support and love we have got has definitely helped, but it doesn't make it better," Ashleigh said.

She detailed what happened to Taylin, saying he had been targeted before.

"I've been kicked in my knees, I've been called monkey, lots of other stuff," Taylin said.

The school sent an email to parents saying the administration is deeply involved, and they are treating it with the highest concern.

Here is the full letter:

We had an incident yesterday that students are talking about. I want to make sure you have as many facts as we can provide. What we can share is limited because school staff are restricted by state law from discussing publicly the details of an investigation that involves our student(s). Yesterday, it was reported to us that someone had written a racial slur on a student's personal wellness T-shirt. We began the investigation yesterday and today we are getting assistance from the Chaska Police Department.

I want to reinforce with you that racism and bigotry have no place at East. We do not tolerate any harassment of our students. When it is based on race, gender or other groups of people, we strongly condemn that behavior. Creating a safe and welcoming school climate is what we strive to do every day. While I cannot share details about our investigation, I can assure you our administrative team is deeply involved in this matter and we are treating it with the highest concern. We will continue to work every day to make sure that Chaska Middle School East is the best and safest place for ALL students.

Beth Holm

"I would want a meeting, I would definitely want like the situation to be addressed," said A.J. Bursch, Taylin's father. "I don't think it has been addressed. I think everything that has happened is more of a steps to take so they don't look at fault."

The plan now is for Taylin to stay at his school, and for his parents to stay the course.

"I'd rather not pull him and let them get away with it, I'd rather them fix it," Ashleigh said. "I think there are places and there are people that can make sure this school protects it and makes it safe, and I think it's only fair we ask them to do that."

Here is a letter from Eastern Carver County Schools Superintendent Clint Christopher, which was sent to families in the district:

One of our schools has been noted in recent media reports and it has raised a question about how Eastern Carver County Schools responds to reports of racial harassment. If you have had this question, I want to be clear about the answer. We do not tolerate language or behavior in our schools that demean anyone. Harassment on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, religion and other categories is subject to our student discipline policy. This includes behavior by adults as well as students. Our commitment to exceptional, personalized learning means all students have the right to an education and the right to learn.

The incident reported in the news is not a reflection of the culture or climate in any of our buildings. We are taking this matter very seriously. We continue to investigate, and the Chaska Police Department was involved. When we know who was responsible, there will be significant and appropriate consequences.

Our schools bring together people from different backgrounds, people with different life experiences and people who have different skills and abilities. Staff in each building work every day to create a positive climate. We have numerous opportunities beyond academics where students can excel and feel at home in school. But conflict is inevitable. It happens in our families and it happens in our schools.

When race, gender or something else is part of the conflict, school staff do not shy away from those issues. They know these situations require different responses. Often times, it is more education and more focus on building empathy for others. Preventing racist language does not mean we have stopped bigotry. Teaching empathy and compassion are often part of the discipline conversation with students. Over the course of a school year, teachers in our schools deliver hundreds of lessons that build cultural understanding. Some lessons are very clear about unacceptable behavior, and others are part of the curriculum as we teach about the United States and our world.

We also know there is more work to do. We have taken steps, such has hiring an equity coordinator in September to better support and direct this work across the district. We know it is not one-time work, it must be embedded in the curriculum, in our classrooms and our communication with families. We teach the skills and abilities people need to be successful citizens in our nation and our world. As we strive to develop caring and compassionate graduates, we appreciate a community that cares deeply about that as well.

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