SMITHVILLE, Texas – A Smithville High School coach and teacher is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into something he allegedly said in class.
The incident was reported around 11:30 a.m. Thursday. According to parents, a handful of African American students in an English class were excused to go help set up a Black History Month program. After they left, a white student reportedly asked the teacher if he could also participate, saying he had African American relatives. Students said the teacher then made a comment, thinking all of the African American students were gone.
"The teacher's response was, 'Is he hanging from a tree in your front yard?''" said the aunt of the boy who asked to attend the program. She didn't want to reveal her identity but said her son was also in the class.
Alicia Elam said her son, a black student in the class, sent her a text during his third-period class, saying, "something really bad had happened, and you're probably going to need to get here," Elam said.
"He was saying, 'I have black kids in my family, how come I can't be excused from class to go help with the Black History program too?' And the coach replied to him, 'Are they hanging in trees in your front yard?'" said Elam.
Elam said her son left the class heading toward the office and the teacher chased him down, asking him if he had called his mom.
"My family is very dedicated and committed to this community. We love the people of this town. We love the small town, but I'm outraged that something like this can be done in a classroom setting and the coach consider it a joke," said Elam. "What bothered me the most is my son said to me, 'Mom, we should be used to this by now,' and that was heartbreaking, because I don't feel like we should ever get used to racism or prejudice or discrimination."
Smithville ISD Superintendent Rock McNulty told KVUE the matter is under investigation and that he expects quick movement because the issue is important. McNulty said several other students also complained about the coach's alleged comments.
The school district would not release the coach's name, but sources said he has been at Smithville High School for almost two years, is from the Dallas area and is in his early to mid-20s.