Investigation Underway After AHS Student Suspended

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ATHENS — The Athens City School District is investigating the treatment of an Athens High School sophomore who was suspended after he and his family say racial slurs and objects were hurled at him, and a fight broke out.

Isaiah Butcher was suspended Tuesday after report of a fight with another student, who his parents say was a fellow member of the football team. The other student was suspended as well, according to David Butcher, Isaiah’s father. But the Butchers say this has been an ongoing problem for their son. WOUB is not naming the student because he is a minor.

“Apparently this has been going on for a week or two…calling him a n**ger and telling him to ‘go back to his country,'” David said.

A screenshot of text messages reportedly sent to Isaiah Butcher. The authors of the text messages have not been independently verified, but the messages were given to school administrators amid their investigation, according to the Butchers. “Butch” is Isaiah’s nickname.

A video taken of the fight and obtained by WOUB shows Butcher and a blond male student standing in what appears to be the cafeteria, speaking to each other. The audio is muffled, but the video show the white student pushing Butcher. That student starts walking toward Butcher again, and Butcher pushes him away. The student then crouches and the two collide, before the video ends.

David said his son was being called a “n**ger” and insulted before the video was taken, and the white student had been throwing things at him.

“I think he just got pushed to his breaking point where, you know, you gotta defend yourself,” David said.

In the midst of the fight, a janitor reportedly chastised Isaiah even though other students were telling her that Isaiah was not the aggressor. It was at that point he admitted to telling the janitor to “shut the f*** up.”

David said that was mentioned when Assistant Principal Chad Springer told him about the suspension.

While waiting in the principal’s office, Butcher said his son received texts from the teen who attacked him apologizing and asking Isaiah not mention the racial slur: “everyone tries to get me (to) f*** with you,” and, in separate text “can I like pay u or something to say that u thought I said something else (and) I’ll leave u alone.”

WOUB has screenshots of the conversation, but cannot independently verify who wrote the texts.

Isaiah Butcher reportedly showed Springer the text messages right after he received them – but he was still suspended.

Principal David Hanning is now investigating the incident, and as a result, less than a day after being suspended, Isaiah has been allowed to return to school pending the investigation, David Butcher told WOUB.

Hanning and Springer have not responded to multiple requests for comment from WOUB.

Though Athens City Schools Superintendent Tom Gibbs declined to comment in Butcher’s specific case, he said “it is typical in situations where an incident results in a Civil Rights or Title IX investigation for students to continue to attend school pending the outcome of the investigation.”

“While students involved in an incident are attending school, every effort is made to keep the students separate and it is communicated to the students that they are not to have any contact of any kind with the other student(s) pending resolution of the incident,” Gibbs wrote in an email to WOUB on Wednesday.

He also confirmed that a verbal complaint had been filed Wednesday morning, but said he was awaiting the written complaint. The school has not confirmed receipt of the written complaint as of Thursday morning.

David Butcher said his son has had similar problems with racial slurs coming from students and school community members in the past, from remarks at football games, to comments at school.

“I try to remind him of what his goals are and his destiny is and not to allow someone to steal this from you or take this from you,” David said.

The Butchers have also spoken to the NAACP about the incident and the “systemic” issues they say they’ve had.

“I was born in 1964, so I know a little about racism, and I’m going to tell you that he has probably had to deal with it 100 times worse than I did in my life,” David said. “And it’s sad that a 16-year-old kid would have to deal with this.”

Allison Hunter contributed to this article.