Black and biracial students faced pervasive racism and bullying at Castle Rock Middle School

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Screenshot of DougCo Board Meeting
A 14-year-old Castle Rock Middle School student testifies before the Douglas County School board with his mother, Lacey Ganzy, at his side on April 25.

Updated 4:29 p.m.

Students at a Castle Rock middle school used a group chat to target and bully Black and biracial students with racist slurs, according to a student and his family. 

The family told the Douglas County School board Tuesday night about the racism the student and his sisters had experienced in the district. The public comments were made before the board discussed an equity policy that has generated controversy in the district.

Lacey Ganzy said in an interview the racial slurs against her eighth-grade son began in February, but she didn’t learn about the racial bullying until April 19.

CPR reviewed the Snapchat screenshots.

One student posted that Black people should be removed from the planet and called for bringing back the Holocaust. Another stated, “I’m a big truck driver trump [sic] supporter. Get me a buckshot and shoot me a n*****.” 

There is an image of a brown piglet that says “n**let” beneath it.

“They called him a monkey every single day, they called him a n***** every day,” said Ganzy. “It went on and on and on. It’s appalling.”

She reported what was happening to school administrators and district administrators. She also made a report to the Castle Rock Police Department on April 20. 

Ganzy said an officer told her the paperwork for charges against one student will be filed. The Castle Rock Police Department said once the full investigation is completed, it will send any reports to the district attorney’s office. That office will determine the final charges.

The district originally did not respond to a request for comment, but issued a statement after the publication of this story Wednesday afternoon. In the statement, the district said it could not discuss the details of student disciplinary actions in order to maintain student privacy:

"It is our goal to take care of each and every one of our students in our district,” it said. “We appreciate the Ganzy family bringing their concerns to us so we can make sure our system is addressing their needs."

Screenshot of DougCo Board Meeting
A 14-year-old student testifies before the Douglas County School Board about racist incidents in his school.

'I have constantly been racially profiled and offended by students'

Ganzy’s son, a soft-spoken young man who takes advanced courses, tried to solve the matter on his own.

He sent a letter via the district’s feedback form on March 10 describing the racism he’d experienced and asking for help. He decided to write to the district because he said he told a teacher and nobody was doing anything about it, Ganzy said.

“I have constantly been racially profiled and offended by students at CRMS. They often use racial slurs near me and many others thinking it's funny, and it makes me feel uncomfortable and unwanted in my school,” he wrote.

He said the racial slurs come from many students and were continuous.

“There will even be times when staff will be in the area when such discrimination takes place,” he said. “Nothing is done about the matter.”

In the letter he laments that it may never be fixed and asks that hate speech be taken more seriously so the school environment can be more welcoming for students. He said he never got a response from the district or anyone else.

The district said that consistent with the complaint process, the letter was promptly sent to the school principal and the administrator who oversees Castle Rock schools. The district said it is continuing to address the matter consistent with the district’s student code of conduct and board of education policies.

When her son showed Ganzy the letter, “It broke my heart,” she said.

“I was very proud of him, but at the same time, I had no idea how severe things were at school.”

She said her son hadn’t told her what was going on because her brother has a terminal illness and didn’t want to burden her.

One of the students who called for another Holocaust on Snapchat received a five-day suspension. The district did not respond when asked whether the student who threatened to shoot Black people has been punished.

Ganzy said a school official told her the school would file a report with the district’s compliance officer regarding Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on race.  

Courtesy of the Ganzy family
The Ganzy family stands outside the Douglas County School District administration office before testifying about racism in some of the district’s schools.

She wanted stability and safety. Instead, her children faced racism

Lacey Ganzy grew up in Castle Rock and attended Douglas County High School. She was a military wife who moved around a lot and decided to move back to Castle Rock with her children. She wanted stability and a safe environment for them. But each of her biracial children, ages 14, 16 and 20, experienced racism at school, she said.

All four told the Douglas County school board Tuesday night about their experiences with racism in several district schools.

“Rather than being a stable and respectful learning environment, schools are beginning to become places of hate and the use of derogatory slurs, stereotypes and terms are rising among the students,” Ganzy’s son told the board. “This shouldn’t be treated as a normal situation.”

Ganzy’s 16-year-old daughter told the school board Tuesday night that while riding the bus to Mesa Middle School, multiple students called her a “n*****.” She told the bus driver and nothing happened.

“In fact, it continued,” she said.

At Castle Rock Middle School, the same school her brother attends, she said the discrimination and racism continued, but there were no consequences for students. She said matters “were brushed under the rug.”

And last fall, while attending Douglas County High School, a teacher had the class debate Jim Crow laws. She was placed on the side supporting the laws that legalized racial segregation. She told the teacher multiple times that she was uncomfortable, she said to the board. She finally told the teacher she wouldn’t debate unless she was moved to the other side. That’s when the teacher relented. Ganzy removed her daughter from the school.

Her daughter told the board that her and her siblings' experiences should be enough to alarm them.

“I'm devastated that this district has yet to do anything about it,” she said.

After public comment, Superintendent Erin Kane told the board that she spoke with the Ganzy family to “make sure that our system is addressing their needs, and we are … and they know how to get in touch with me if they feel like there’s anything tripped up in the process.”

Screenshot of DougCo Board Meeting
A 16-year-old student testifies before the Douglas County school board about the racism she experienced at several schools in the district. Her older sister, Kaiya Griffen, 20, stands by her side. Griffen, a graduate of the district, also experienced racism.

‘My son could never return to that school’

For Ganzy, she said she wants schools to have a victim advocate who knows about equality, diversity and race.  

“And I want there to be education for this student that commits the hate speech. I want there to be a clear definition of punishment for hate crime because you're summing it up as bullying and it's illegal. This is more than bullying, it's a hate crime,” she said.

She said the school gave her three options. One was for her son to transfer to Mesa Middle School, where last fall the mother of a seventh-grader alleged that an older student randomly sent a racist message to her son at school. The other two options were to homeschool him or to return to Castle Rock Middle School with a safety plan.  

“My son could never return to that school, ever,” she said. “And my son could never go to high school. They talked about lynching him and now all of the kids know who he is. There is not enough safety that they could wrap around my kids where I would believe that he was protected and truly safe.”

 Ganzy said her son is a “trainwreck.” He hasn’t been in school for a week.

“They were talking about he was the snitch, talking about lynching him,” she said. “We've just cut him off from social media completely. I feel like we're wearing a scarlet letter in Castle Rock.”

She said her son will participate in online school for the remainder of the year. Ganzy said she needs to move her family out of Castle Rock.

“He's not safe. These are kids that he rides the bus with. They live right next to us. This has forever changed my family's life,” she said.