January 16, 2022

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Father charged with hate crime for getting involved in daughter’s schoolyard fight

A man from Washington state has been charged with a hate crime after he got involved in an altercation involving his daughter, her boyfriend, and a Black student at her high school. The man, identified as William Cunningham, was captured on video using racial slurs against the student.

The fight occurred in Monroe outside Seattle, Washington on 10 November according to local outlet King 5.

The altercation was initiated when Mr Cunningham’s daughter, who is white, shoved a friend of the male student in the hallway of Monroe High School. The student later confronted Mr Cunningham’s daughter and her boyfriend in the school parking lot, leading to threats being issued from both sides.

The boyfriend then allegedly pushed the student, who responded by grabbing his shirt. Mr Cunningham’s daughter reportedly hit the student in the head with a water bottle.

She claimed that he “put hands on her”, but deputy prosecutor Kirk Mahjoubian wrote in the charging document that video evidence doesn’t support that claim.

Following that altercation, Mr Cunningham’s daughter video called him and walked over towards the student where he was speaking to a group of friends, allowing the father to see the student’s face.

The 39-year-old father was filmed making death threats towards the Black student.

According to court documents, the father said he was “going to [expletive] all you [N-word] up. If I see you, I’ll kill you”. He also used other racial slurs.

“He said he’s a white cracker, and he’ll [expletive] all you [N-word] up. You want to act ignorant?” the daughter said, according to court filings.

“My dad says you got something metal in the car smack that [expletive] in his mouth right now,” she told her boyfriend, court documents state.

Monroe police said in a statement that “the father, who allegedly made targeted death threats and racist remarks to the Black high school student, via phone, is scheduled to be arraigned in Snohomish County Superior Court on January 19, 2022. The death threats and racist remarks were recorded via a witnessing student’s phone and circulated widely via social media”.

They added that they “learned of additional acts of harassment and intimidation” on 28 November. Police said the “father and associated teenage suspects” instigated these actions, showing up at the student’s workplace and “following him around and staring at him”.

Mr Cunningham, the daughter, and the boyfriend reportedly followed him around for 20 minutes and eventually left when his mother arrived. A colleague told the student that they had been coming there three days in a row.

Court documents state that the next day, Mr Cunningham called the detective who had interviewed him previously and asked if it would be harassment if he went to the student’s workplace.

“These acts led to formal trespass notices being served on the father and associated teenage suspects, prohibiting them from visiting or frequenting the victim’s place of employment,” police said.

Mr Cunningham has reportedly admitted to the allegations while speaking to the police.

“We are horrified that someone, especially an adult, would threaten one of our students in this way,” the school district said in a statement earlier this week. “There is no place for hate in the Monroe School District, and we will take action to remove access to school sites for anyone who threatens students and staff.”

The student has since left the school. His mother, Stephanie Holliman, picked up her son at the school on the day of the altercation and told The Daily Herald at the time: “I’m crying and I’m emotional because a hate crime was happening to him.”

A survey conducted by students presented to the Monroe school board last January found that a majority of those who took part in the study had experienced racism in the district. But most of those students said they didn’t report it to school leadership because of lacking trust and representation. Those who chose to report racist incidents said they often felt unsafe afterwards.

Following calls for his resignation, Superintendent Justin Blasko was put on administrative leave last month and an investigation will look at the handling of racist incidents and the work environment at Monroe schools, which has been reported to be toxic, according to The Daily Herald.

Equity consultant Bill de la Cruz started working with the district this month.

“My hope is that as we move forward together that we can start to have these conversations and realize that, systemically, a lot of things have to change,” Mr de la Cruz said during a video conference with parents on Tuesday.

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