COLUMBIA, S.C. — Two of the parents behind the four-page letter sent to Cardinal Newman School on Wednesday are now speaking out publicly.
The letter comes after a student was arrested and charged for making threats against the school, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
A second student has been expelled, according to Thursday's town hall.
“We have been the victim of hate speech here in Columbia, South Carolina at Cardinal Newman School,” said Cynthia Duncan Joseph, a concerned mom.
Duncan Joseph is the mother of a Cardinal Newman 15-year-old and works professionally as an educator.
She said she wrote a first draft of the letter at a meeting with parents and school officials on Monday.
“Our first priority is to protect the safety and security of our child. Like I said, we like Cardinal Newman, we love Cardinal Newman. We wanted to fight to be able to keep her there. We needed them to hear our voices. So many of us have volunteered to be on committees and so forth in the past and have made suggestions when small, I won't say that they're small or insignificant, but when there have been implicit bias situations occurred at the school that were not taken seriously. So, I'm a firm believer if it's not in writing, it didn't happen,” she said.
Later, the same group decided to release it publicly.
“I want to be very clear, our coming out, myself, my husband, the people that helped to pen the letter that we wrote was never to blemish Cardinal Newman. We fought this fight and are fighting this fight because we want our children, our black children, our white children, our Asian children, our Latino children all to feel safe and secure,” Duncan Joseph said.
Joseph described the racially-charged videos, featuring a now expelled student, as disturbing and scary.
The student made the videos sometime in mid-July and was later expelled after the threat a few days later, according to RCSD and the school.
The 4-page letter urges the school to improve diversity hiring, inclusion, training and education for both students and staff.
She hopes the school listens.
“If I didn't trust them, my daughter would not be returning to school next week. I have a level trust, I also know that we need to be very vigilant to monitor the actions, to make sure they're true to their word,” Duncan Joseph explained.
However, she said it took a week of prayer, conversation, and sleepless nights to decide to send her daughter back to the school.
“Do we move our student? Our student runs cross country, I had to think about this young man, perhaps this community, is it possible she could be off running cross country and she would be harmed? Right? Those are concerns not just about in the school but it’s also out at our athletic events and the school addressed those,” Duncan Joseph told WLTX.
Fellow parent and Cardinal Newman graduate Tracy Skipper added her name to the letter later in the week.
Skipper said she added her name because her son, a rising 8th grader, mentioned another racially-insensitive incident from class.
“He's witnessing it, and I think it's really important-- Racism is not an African American issue, it involves Hispanics, it involves Asians, and as a white parent I have an obligation to stand up with others in my community and say this is not okay,” Skipper said in her office on Friday.
Skipper said she wanted to be involved in changing the culture, especially as an educator herself.
“I really have a commitment to that school and I want to be in there to work to change it. I can't help change it if I'm not there,” Skipper explained.
Both parents said they encouraged after Thursday's town hall.
“Hopeful, productive, and heard,” Duncan Joseph said.
But, they acknowledged the work is not done.
“I think the school and the Diocese have an obligation to speak out. It's a pro-life issue, we are pro-life on this issue as well,” she added.
Duncan Joseph said she hopes to read a written strategic plan from the school in the coming weeks on how they plan to implement diversity and inclusion immediately and long term.