State Attorney's Office Files Petition in Hate Crime Against Teacher
Though we believe that society has moved far beyond hate-related crimes, one African American teacher from Hawthorne High School is still suffering the effects of what happened to her on June 1, 2007.
Former Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corp, Patricia McCullough, who is affectionately known as "Coach Pat," says that with school reopening in the coming weeks she will not be going back to Hawthorne, though she loved the students and her former alma mater.
She still hasn't recovered from the shock she sustained on the last day of school when her classroom and car were attacked with racial hate symbols, including "KKK" and swatstikas.
"I am a strong person but this has broken me," says McCullough. The case has landed in the hands of Alachua's state attorney --but because the incident involves a juvenile they could not discuss the case. While it's not easy to label any incident a hate crime local prosecutors explain, if something is done or said because of who someone is then it is a hate crime.
McCullough tells us that a petition to charge the student has been filed with the Alachua County Criminal Court. But what has surprised her most is that in Florida hate crimes aren't a crime on their own-- rather they enhance the penalty levied against the accused.
McCullough says, "When there are no consequences under the state, under the county locally things won't change, we need to change."
And the Alachua County School Board is also monitoring the case, their Public Information Officer, Jackie Johnson says, "We will review the investigation by law enforcement, review the charges that the state attorney's office brought, then we will determine what our next step is in terms of disciplining the student who was involved."
According to Alachua County Sheriff's Office, in 2006 Alachua County had 9 reported hate crimes, and so far this year there have been another nine. Not all reported hate crimes are based on race, some are religious, based on gender and sexual orientation. A week from today McCullough will go before the Florida Commission on Human Relations to mediate with the school board.
McCullough says there needs to be education to prevent these types of incidents from happening again. And according to Johnson there is, "Certainly education is key, we talk to students on a regular basis..."
But the most effective remedy says McCullough, "We must truly learn to love one another."
While the paint may be gone the scars are still very much present.
By Stacey Samuel, WCJB TV20 News
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