Education

Mother critical of Wake Forest High’s handling of incident in viral video

Confrontation at Wake Forest High shows teacher using non-physical means to de-escalate situation

A video posted to Instagram by Tyler Goodell, who identified himself as a Wake Forest High School student on his Instagram page, shows a black student pulling a white student to the floor before a female teacher intervenes. Wake County school off
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A video posted to Instagram by Tyler Goodell, who identified himself as a Wake Forest High School student on his Instagram page, shows a black student pulling a white student to the floor before a female teacher intervenes. Wake County school off

The mother of a suspended Wake Forest High School student expressed frustration Monday with how the school handled events that culminated in a viral video showing an altercation between her son and another student and a teacher.

The video has been shared thousands of times on social media showing 15-year-old Micah Speed, a Wake Forest High sophomore, pulling a classmate to the floor twice on Thursday before a female teacher intervenes.

Yolanda Speed, Micah’s mother, said she doesn’t condone what her son did. But she said that Micah was pushed too far when the school didn’t respond to concerns that had been raised about racist comments made by the other student.

The viral video caused a tumult, with many students taking Micah’s side, saying the black student was defending himself against racial harassment from a white student. Amid extra security on campus Monday, some students chanted “Bring Micah Back!”

“If the video had not gone viral, the light would not have been shone,” Yolanda Speed said. “We’ve been talking about inappropriate conversations about race in the class for weeks.”

Speed credited the public outcry with getting her son’s original out-of-school suspension reduced in half, from 10 days to five days.

The story got attention Friday when Micah’s friend and classmate, Tyler Goodell, posted on Twitter and Instagram asking people to come to Micah’s aid. That prompted Twitter users to hound the Wake County school system’s account demanding an explanation, calling for action or criticizing the school system over the incident.

Wake Forest High Principal Patti Hamler left a voicemail message Sunday night with parents telling them that school administrators are aware of the video and are investigating the situation. She also encouraged parents who have concerns to contact the school.

“I would like to take this opportunity to encourage your children to not share rumors,” Hamler said. “If your child has information to share, they should contact an administrator directly.

“We strive each day to create a positive learning environment and take every measure to ensure the safety of our students.”

In his post, Goodell said Micah experienced racial harassment from the other student for months with no action from the school.

Yolanda Speed said what set her son off Thursday was the student showing Micah a video of shotguns being fired. Speed said the student then told Micah to imagine the targets were him, his mother and his sister.

“As I told him, ‘If you had not put your hands on him, you would not have been suspended at all,” Speed said. “But if you hadn’t, light would not have been shone on these teachers. If you don’t stop what’s going on in your classrooms, you’re a willing participant.”

Goodell said in his post that the other student had not been suspended, prompting more than 1,500 signatures as of Monday afternoon on a change.org petition saying that the other student should be suspended instead of Speed.

Speed said she was told Monday that the other student had been disciplined, but she said she wasn’t provided any details.

About 100 students participated in a protest Monday morning when class was not in session, according to Lisa Luten, a Wake schools spokeswoman. She said extra law enforcement personnel and school security staff were present Monday to reassure parents that the campus was a safe environment.

Speed said that the support of the other students heartened Micah, who is worried he might be removed from the school’s football team and who has received comments on social media using the n-word and saying he should be lynched.

“It pulled Micah out of a slump,” Speed said. “Friday he was so down. I had never seen him cry before.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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