Mother plans to sue school, Duval County school district & principal over alleged racial discrimination

Document claims administrators dismissed concerns & retaliated against student who reported ‘racist’ incidents

The mother of a student at Jacksonville’s Mandarin Middle School announced she will sue Duval County Public Schools, MMS’s principal and its dean over a series of alleged incidents of racial discrimination and retaliation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of a student at Jacksonville’s Mandarin Middle School announced she will sue Duval County Public Schools, MMS’s principal, and its dean over a series of alleged incidents of racial discrimination and retaliation.

According to a notice of intent to sue provided to News4JAX, the incidents began on March 9, when a student used a derogatory, racist word against Aylise Beechem’s son, an exchange that led to a physical skirmish between the two students.

Beechem’s son, who is Black, immediately reported the incident to the school’s Dean.

According to the document, the Dean contacted Beechem and told her that her son would be suspended for three days, allegedly saying, “words don’t hurt and he needs to know how to handle things better.” The other student in the exchange was also suspended, but no formal investigation was launched at that point.

Almost a month later, on April 6, the document alleges that another student stole Beechem’s son’s backpack, and used the same derogatory term multiple times with other students and his teacher present at the time. Again, the document says Beechem’s son “defended himself.”

After reporting the incident, Beechem said her son’s concerns were dismissed by the educator -- and that he was placed on a three-day, in-school suspension.

“It’s very unfortunate that we are in this situation,” Beechem said Thursday. “I feel that my son is unsafe in his environment at the school.”

Again, on April 12, the document claims the racist term was employed again by a student, and Beechem’s son again reported it to the teacher.

“[The teacher] told [Beechem’s son] that he gets mad when someone calls him a [n-word], but he thinks he can say it about himself,” the document said. “[Beechem’s son] asked his teacher...how she would feel if someone called her a “cracker,” and she responded by calling him a [n-word], and saying, ‘you don’t have the privilege to call white people “crackers” because Black people are beneath white people.’”

Beechem’s attorney, Jasmine Rand, said seven other students in the classroom have submitted written statements confirming that the teacher used racist language at Beechem’s son.

Beechem met with school administrators and Superintendent Diana Greene after the April 12th incident but said that seemingly no disciplinary action was taken. Her son was removed from the teacher’s class at her request, a move that, she said, mired the student’s testing schedule and put one of his course grades in danger of failing.

According to the intent to sue, another instance where the n-word was weaponized against Beechem’s son occurred on May 4th, and two days later, was again dismissed by the school’s Dean.

“Mandarin Middle School and Duval County Public Schools’ actions and omissions constituted negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, [Beecham’s son] suffered a battery upon his person, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based upon racial discrimination and retaliation,” the intent to sue document said.

The letter of intent was delivered to the school district offices Thursday.

“The school and the district are aware of this allegation,” a DCPS spokesperson said. “Because it is a matter of potential future litigation, the district is not able to make any public comments regarding the claims.”

A key demand in the lawsuit is the immediate termination of the teacher from school district employment.

“I’m just baffled, to be honest, that a school can allow this to go on as far as teaching them that this is okay,” Beechem said.

As of publication Thursday, the lawsuit is not been officially filed.


About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.