Less than a day after news broke of a Brother Rice High School student and two other white teens forcing a black student to wear a noose and threatening his life, the school is responding.
According to Chicago Police, Joshua Merritt, 17, was the victim of a hate crime at about 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 23, in the 1600 block of W. 100th Pl., in Chicago’s East Beverly neighborhood. WGN-TV reported that this happened at the home of a Cook County State's Attorney's office employee.
After investigating the matter for weeks, police arrested Matthew Herrmann, 18, of Alsip and charged him with battery, felony unlawful restraint and felony hate crime.
FOX Chicago News reported Herrmann and the other two suspects, who were juveniles, put a noose around Merritt’s neck twice, wouldn’t allow him to leave, and used the N-word several times as they threatened to kill him.
Although the incident didn’t happen on campus, James Antos, principal of Brother Rice High School told Patch on Thursday, “We have never tolerated this kind of behavior, it has never been tolerated and won’t be tolerated.”
According to him, one of the three teens involved was a current Brother Rice student, another was an alumnus and the third goes to high school somewhere else.
Antos said he started the morning with an announcement to students reminding them "that we’re challenged sometimes by events that we can’t control, but our philosophy has always been to treat people with dignity, celebrate their difference.”
Antos spoke to students just after 8 a.m. Thursday morning.
The principal said he’s spoken to parents of both involved students, and if they are in need of counseling, “it’s definitely available to them,” but this morning, the victim "seems to be just fine."
Brother Rice hasn’t sent any correspondence home to parents, he said, however, Antos said he will be meeting with faculty today to "determine what we might do tomorrow," and brief them on the situation.
The school will be disciplining the student, Antos said, and "as of right now, the student is removed from school." Disciplinary action taken against the student "will be determined, given our school processes," according to Antos.
“Keep in mind that there’s only one student out of a population of over 830,” Antos reiterated, “Sometimes it’s difficult and it hurts when supposedly God-fearing people will paint the entire school with such a brush.”
The school is continuing to look into the situation, Antos said.
“As we unfold our own investigation of what happened, we will deal with the situation as Christianly and as focused as possible when we finish what we’re doing here at school.”
Antos said the school, whose motto is to “Act Manfully in Christ Jesus,” has tolerance and respect in the student handbook. Asked whether the school offers hate crime prevention, tolerance courses or diversity training, Antos said, “It’s inclusive in all of our classes.”
The school does not have a separate course specifically on the subject.
“Our philosophy has been and always will be to teach gospel messages. It’s always to act manfully in Christ Jesus. We have service that supports communities throughout Chicago, including schools with kids of color,” he said.
“One student who elected not to for whatever reason I can’t explain nor will I even attempt, if in fact all of this is true, I cannot explain why he did what he did. The student has no unusual discipline story here at Brother Rice and to be quite honest, it’s a bit shocking.”
Asked how he’ll handle the situation as the end of the week nears, Antos said it happens to be a weekend that he was supposed take students to a retreat.
“I will be in prayer all weekend,” he said.