By The Associated Press
HOUMA, La. (AP) — A white high-schooler has been charged with a hate crime after being caught on video throwing cotton balls at a Black student and whipping him with his belt, authorities said Wednesday.
The 15-year-old freshman at Vandebilt Catholic High School in Houma was arrested Tuesday on battery and hate crime charges after authorities reviewed a recording showing what happened inside the cafeteria on March 9.
The video shows the white student walking up behind a Black student sitting in the crowded lunchroom. He throws a handful of cotton balls at him, and then whips him repeatedly with his belt until the Black student stands and pushes him, news outlets reported.
“I’m very pleased that the school took a front stand on this,” Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Tim Soignet said in a news release.
“When we received the complaint, we immediately put our detectives on it. They worked through the weekend so we could get to this point,” Soignet said. “My officers did a good job handling it and working with the school to get this case to where it is now.”
News outlets reported that the victim is one of only a few Black students at the school. Authorities didn’t identify the students, and it wasn’t clear if the arrested teen has a lawyer who could speak for him.
Vandebilt Catholic President Jeremy Gueldner said the school does not tolerate bullying or racism. These “actions by a few are not consistent with the values and mission of our school,” the archdiocese statement said.
The parents of the child who was targeted thanked people for their support.
“We will continue to pray for our school community as a whole, that we not only get through this together but that we each learn a valuable lesson from what has taken place,” the parents said in the archdiocese statement.
Terrebonne Parish NAACP President Jerome Boykin also praised school officials and police for their swift response, saying the school and sheriff’s office “sent a strong message to the community that this type of crime will not be tolerated.”
“The young man is only 15 years of age and I hope that he can learn from his mistake,” Boykin added.