Teen leaves Castle Rock Middle School after racist slurs and threats, family and attorney say
The racism experienced by a family in the Douglas County School District was so egregious that it drove a 14-year-old Black boy to finish his school year online and is forcing the biracial family to move out of Castle Rock altogether, according to the family and their attorney.
In March, 14-year-old Jeramiah Ganzy was so fed up with what he said was racist treatment at Castle Rock Middle School that he wrote an email to district officials. In that message, provided to The Denver Post, Jeramiah wrote that he experienced repeated instances of discrimination, including students directing racist slurs at him and teachers unfairly targeting him for discipline.
“There had been a lot of bullying of people calling me a monkey and a cotton picker,” Jeramiah told The Post in an interview. “I wanted something to happen. I sent the email in anger and frustration, hoping to get a response — and I didn’t.”
Jeramiah also told his mother Lacey Ganzy about a Snapchat group chat with more than 80 Douglas County students, in which students repeatedly used racist slurs, called for the genocide of Black people, and threatened to shoot Black people and bring back the Holocaust.
Attorney Iris Halpern, who is representing the Ganzys as they explore legal options, provided The Post with screenshots of those messages.
When students in the group learned Jeramiah had shared the messages, Lacey Ganzy said the students talked about lynching him.
“He can never go back to these schools,” she said. “They’re talking about lynching my son. I am not sending him back there. He is someone who thrives on education and is nominated for awards and is in AP classes… The options are for him to be homeschooled or move out of town. We are looking to get out of Castle Rock as quickly as possible. We do not feel safe. I grew up here, and I’m run out of town because my family decided to speak up about something that is not right.”
Lacey Ganzy said she showed the Castle Rock Middle School principal the racist messages and threats, and he assured her the students who sent them would be reprimanded, charged criminally and suspended.
The Post asked if any students faced discipline, but Paula Hans, a spokesperson for the Douglas County School District, said she could not answer that due to student privacy laws.
Hans said the district is addressing the matter “consistent with the DCSD Student Code of Conduct and DCSD Board of Education policies.”
“It is our goal to take care of each and every one of our students in our district,” Hans said. “We appreciate the Ganzy family bringing their concerns to us so we can make sure our system is addressing their needs.”
Taylor Temby, a spokesperson for Castle Rock Police Department, said police looked into the matter but information about the investigation could not be shared because minors are involved. Police sent a report to the district attorney’s office, which will determine if charges should be filed, Temby said.
Lacey Ganzy said she only learned of her son’s email to the district two weeks ago when Jeramiah was being investigated by Castle Rock Middle School because a staff member claimed the teen stole a water bottle — a bottle that belonged to Jeramiah. The staffer questioned where he bought the bottle, Jeramiah said, and how he could have obtained the money to buy it.
“Douglas County School District has a racism problem,” Halpern said. “This racist message and culture is coming from the top down. It’s the school district, its leadership and parents and adults. Students don’t learn white supremacy in a vacuum.”
The Douglas County School District confirmed Jeramiah’s March email was received by the school principal and executive director of schools. Halpern said the Ganzys didn’t hear directly from anyone at the district until Monday, nearly a week after the family shared their experiences publicly at a Douglas County school board meeting.
The Ganzy family said Jeramiah’s experience with racism in Douglas County schools is not an isolated incident.
Nevaeh Ganzy, Jeramiah’s 16-year-old sister, said she transferred to a charter school after a teacher at Douglas County High School made students debate whether they were for or against Jim Crow laws enabling racial segregation — and put her on the side supporting the laws.
The evening the Ganzy family spoke before the Douglas County school board, Halpern noted, was the same night the board discussed the district’s equity policy — a polarizing policy that’s been debated for more than a year and which lays out how the school district handles equity and diversity issues.
Conservative school board members erroneously claimed the policy would prompt teaching critical race theory, and former superintendent Corey Wise claimed the policy and his advocacy for supporting students of color was at the heart of his firing, which a judge found to have been unlawful.
Lacey Ganzy said she wants the Douglas County School District to understand there is a difference between bullying and hate speech and to treat them differently. The mother wants students to have a victim advocate available who can fight for them. She wants teachers, staff and administrators to have robust diversity training to educate them about topics like racism. Friends set up a GoFundMe for the family as they search for a new place to live outside of Castle Rock.
“The one thing I want is for kids to be better educated on Black history and to have better enforcement with hate crimes and hate speech and some consequences for that,” Jeramiah said. “It’s not fair that I’m the victim, and I’m forced to change my life and those who do the hate crimes are not.”
To view the article in its entirety, visit www.denverpost.com.