Hate crime victim pushes for education over punishment

Freshman Joy Simmons says someone left racist notes in her binder

High school freshman Joy Simmons says someone left racist notes in her binder, November 29, 2016. (KOIN)
High school freshman Joy Simmons says someone left racist notes in her binder, November 29, 2016. (KOIN)

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — A local high school freshman who says someone left racist notes in her binder hopes to use the incident as a chance to educate people on the impact derogatory words can have on others.

Joy Simmons, 15, said she was shocked to find the notes in her binder during a normal day of school at Clackamas Academy of Industrial Sciences.

High school freshman Joy Simmons says someone left racist notes in her binder, November 29, 2016. (Facebook)
High school freshman Joy Simmons says someone left racist notes in her binder, November 29, 2016. (Facebook)

“The first one had the N word on it, the 2nd one said ‘go back to Africa, N word,'” Joy said. “It was pretty devastating because I didn’t know that anybody thought that of me that I shouldn’t be there… I have just as much of a right to be there as they do.”

Joy said she immediately reported the hate crime to her school’s principal. Her mom, Kim, reached out to a local civil rights group to inform them of what had happened.

Joy Simmons and her mom, Kim, respond to racist notes left in a school binder, November 29, 2016. (KOIN)
Joy Simmons and her mom, Kim, respond to racist notes left in a school binder, November 29, 2016. (KOIN)

“You’re hearing a lot more hate crimes than you were a couple months ago,” Kim said.

Just last month, someone tweeted a picture of Oregon City High School students with a sign that said “Welcome back to the farm n*****” and a cartoon of a KKK member.

Then, someone reportedly left a hateful note on the doorstep of another African American student.

Both incidents left students infuriated enough to walk out of class in protest.

“I don’t think a lot of kids even understand what it means to people,” Kim said. “I think in school they should have more education of history.”

Joy agrees, and wants others to use her experience as a chance to learn.

“I’d rather have them be educated on the word than to be punished because I think education on it will go further than just the punishment,” Joy explained.

School officials wouldn’t comment on the notes, but said they are investigating.

The school district provided KOIN 6 News with the following statement:

“Oregon City School District does not tolerate harassment or intimidation of any kind. We strive to create and sustain a safe and welcoming environment for all students.  

Any report of discrimination or intimidation is promptly investigated in compliance with Oregon law and board policy and in cooperation with the appropriate students and/or family. 

Schools and communities across the nation have noted an increase in incidents of racial harassment and intimidation. In response, school staff remain vigilant and committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment through school-wide events such as assemblies and classroom discussions and activities. 

Our schools will continue to work with students and families, as well as outside partners, toward creating an inclusive environment that is safe and welcoming to all students.”