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Brother Rice Principal Responds to Hate Crime Incident

Principal James Antos said the school has always taught tolerance or hate crime prevention “in all of our classes.” He responds to the recent hate crime accusation involving two Brother Rice students.

Less than a day after news broke of a  student and two other white teens forcing a black student to wear a noose and threatening his life, the school is responding.

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.

Exo January 27, 2012 at 01:05 AM
I agree with the above. Having grown up with friends at Brother Rice, St Laurence, St Rita and the other catholic schools I know first hand that there are no programs at these schools that address these issues. This principal should be dismissed for his obviously uninformed attitude. And they need to start being proactive about teaching tolerance in schools.
tom miramontes January 27, 2012 at 04:21 AM
I agree entirely. Truth be told, it starts at home. As a lifelong southwest sider, I know that racism flows like the Chicago River. Its hard to admit, but we all have experienced it one way or another. As parents, we can't rely on our schools to teach our kids what we haven't learned ourselves. It's a shame we are stuck in the 60's. Time to change.
Ed January 27, 2012 at 02:21 PM
If you don't believe the classes talk about respect for others then you clearly have not gone to Rita, Laurence, or Rice so don't tell people that they don't. Brother rice is a great school and you don't know how many times per class everyday we talked about acting manfully in Christ Jesus, so please don't try and pretend you know anything about it.
Just Another Observer January 27, 2012 at 04:28 PM
From today's Tribune: Merritt, who hopes to study graphic design after graduating, said he has never been harassed because of his race before and that they the incident doesn’t change his perception of his high school. “I would just like to say that Brother Rice really does try to instill love for other people and tolerance, and that these people don’t represent Brother Rice,” he said. “They didn’t receive the message.” The victim himself says Bro Rice trys to preach love and tolerance, so let's lay off the catholic school bashing.
Ed January 27, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Well that makes a lot of sense to stereotype brother rice grads that you know. Brother rice teaches morals and justice, and there are. Classes for morality and social justice but I'm sure you did zero research before vocalizing your opinion. If a student chooses not listen that is up to them, one of tens of thousands does not reflect on them all. I don't know what brother rice grads you know but the grads I know, know right from wrong. Who you Are friends with says a lot about your own character by the way. So when you go pointing your finger, remember you have three pointing back at you.

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