A history of threats

Teen's acquittal highlights racially motivated incidents in Steamboat

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— Steamboat Springs High School freshman Randall Nelson has succeeded in nearly everything he can control.

When he needed help at school, Randall found a tutor. When his jump shot didn't fall on the basketball court, the 15-year-old practiced more. But one thing Randall allegedly had no control over, according to court documents, were ongoing race-related taunts that led to an altercation between himself and another teenager when Randall was in eighth grade.

On Thursday, Randall, who is black, was found not guilty of assault and disorderly conduct charges stemming from a February 2007 incident that left another boy with a broken jaw. Defense attorney Kris Hammond said that responding violently to racially motivated threats was a first for Randall.

But being threatened in Steamboat Springs because of his race was not.

Randall first spoke to his parents about racially motivated incidents in 2003 - and the city of Steamboat Springs has seen other potentially racial incidents, unrelated to Randall's case, in recent years.

Thursday, Hammond said that the student Randall struck called Randall a slave and one day drew a swastika that he showed to Randall and a Jewish student during class.

Hammond noted that the history of interaction between the two boys was enough to convince the jury that there was a real threat facing Randall at the time of the incident.

Similar threats allegedly began years ago.

In the fall of 2003, numerous appearances of racially motivated graffiti were reported at Steamboat Springs High School. A short time later, Randall - then a fifth-grader - was verbally harassed by two older students on a bus ride home.

According to the account Randall gave his mother, who then relayed the details to a Steamboat Springs Police Department detective, two high school-aged males boarded the bus at its high school stop on the afternoon of Nov. 3, 2003.

The boys made their way to the back of the bus, where Randall was seated with some of his friends, and told the fifth-grader to move his "black ass," his mother said at the time. Despite attempts by students Randall's age to stop the harassment, the alleged offenders pretended to whip Randall like a slave and continued to berate him.

High school officials said at the time that they wanted to address the situation through curriculum and discuss it with their students. Former School Resource Officer Deb Funston investigated the incidents of graffiti, but the investigation didn't identify any suspects.

Other incidents

In 2004, Cameron Burney, then a high school junior, told Steamboat Springs City Council members that he had been the target of racial graffiti at the school for many months.

Burney and his mother, Kimberley Mares, said they wanted to make the situation public knowledge because they didn't feel the school district or anyone else had taken appropriate measures to deal with the issue.

In July 2007, a 29-year-old Michigan man was arrested at a construction site on suspicion of stabbing a black man during a July 6 argument at Sunpie's Bistro.

Reggie Sellars, a former tutor of Randall's, said that as a black man, he feels Steamboat is a very welcoming community despite isolated, racially motivated incidents in the area.

"This is one of the most educated communities I've been in," said Sellars, who has addressed high school students on diversity issues. "There may not be a lot of diversity in the area, but many of the students get to travel with the arts and sports. They have seen so many things outside of Steamboat."

A heavy burden

Randall celebrated the verdict Thursday with his parents, friends and family at the Old West Steakhouse.

The restaurant was filled with laughter and talk of basketball practice and the weather - basically, anything other than the case, which Deb Nelson, Randall's mother, said had been a heavy burden on the family for almost a year.

"We'd like to celebrate what we feel like is justice tonight," she said.

Comments

seeuski 6 years, 7 months ago

The thing is Mr. Nelson warned the punk that he would punch him in the mouth if he continued to harrass. The punk then returned with another bully for backup, as these chickens usually do, and then physically assaulted Mr. Nelson who then delivered on his promise. That will usually cure the bully disease from that particular punk.

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grannyrett 6 years, 7 months ago

It didn't escape their notice. It's just easier to put your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away, than to deal with it.

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Martha D Young 6 years, 7 months ago

How did all these instances of racially-motivated harassment and bullying escape the notice of school employees?

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waterguy 6 years, 7 months ago

The Pilot article doesn't do Randall's story justice; see The Denver Post's story from 1-10-08:

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_7939049

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below_me 6 years, 7 months ago

This is nothing new. Have you forgotten the derogatory racial remarks made against the hispanic players of the Battle Mountain High School football team a couple years ago? In case you missed it.

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madmoores 6 years, 7 months ago

At my workplace there is a ZERO tolerance to just about anything, meaning that if you screw up, goodbye. You don't get a chance to explain or plead your case but you do get shown the door and handed your final check on the way out of said door. If I told a co-worker to move their "black ass" I would be quickly introduced to that door and booed by others on the way out of it. Why have the school systems, all over the country, not adopted a policy such as "Zero Tolerance"? If it can be in place in the workforce why is a school, preparing our youth to enter that very workforce, not practicing it now. This kid should have been expelled from the very first incident of harrassment, it would have never gone this far. It is time for this country to grow the hell up and stop acting so childish. We are all human and we all bleed red, have white teeth and a life to lead of our own. Why still so much hate? Sad.

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letomayo 6 years, 7 months ago

Wasn't Dana Howell superintendent then? All the same adminsitrators are still here aren't they? What was it they were doing? How can one incident happen and someone (another student) not report it to the administraor?

Are our students not responsible for safety of other in our schools? Shouldn't there be a code of ethics for these kids? We should expect our children to tell an adult when someone is being harrassed. It would be easier for them than for the victim?

I said before that I have heard abot some prominant peoples' kids and coaches being involved in racial comments. I agree with madmoores why are these coaches' acts being tolerated?

Yeah for Randall. He should not have to endure another incident. The principles and district adminstration and teachers and coaches should step up to the plate and end this kind of behavior from prejudice students and staff. Its 2008!

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JazzSlave 6 years, 7 months ago

grannyrett is most likely correct. It sounds like the knuckle-dragger was pretty over the top with his bs I can't believe it went unnoticed by the adults at the school.

I had very similar experience when I was 14. The teachers were all aware of the conflict, but left it alone. I eventually resolved it with a lucky punch. I drew a week's suspension (so did my opponent) but the hassling stopped.

Not every kid is going to be able to make a stand, especially if he's physically over matched. Teachers need to keep an eye on the circumstances. Adult intervention at the drop of a hat might prevent a kid from ever learning how to stand up for himself.

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ijustlookhi 6 years, 7 months ago

unbelievable....wtf are parents teaching kids in this town and what are the names of the harrassers?

Way to go Randall!

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madmoores 6 years, 7 months ago

letomayo says: "Its 2008!"

BINGO

Had a similiar experience myself jazzslave, but was charged with 2nd degree assault instead because of the "nature of the injuries". It did stop the bullying though. Might be why I feel the way I do about a zero tolerance approach.

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love_boat 6 years, 7 months ago

A great discussion! In addition to race, kids are picked on for religion, being overweight, underweight, shorter than average, or any number of things that make them seem vunerable to a bully personality. As far as teachers being every where especially in gym class, I am not sure kids would rather have an adult staring at them as they dress before and after class.

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letomayo 6 years, 7 months ago

Smoke as the Bible says "Blessed are the peace makers for theirs shall be the kingdom of Heaven." Gandi and MLK were both killed by enemies. Maybe their in Heaven. Why is Dirty Harry more popularat the movies? Packin an .44 magnum would turn some heads and most the other way.

More important than Gandi and MLK is teaching how to avoid bullies through your life. Gandi and mlk are not examples of people who stood up to bullies and had the outcome most kids want. Kids may admire those two but they don't want to end up a victim theirselves. Teach them that a small group can get a bully to back off. There are adult bullies everywhere in this town and the world just read these blogs and a good newspaper. This Pilot has bullies on it's staff. You can read it in the stories and the blogs about certain people that are on the reporters hit list.

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JazzSlave 6 years, 7 months ago

ijustlookhi:

Good question. The victim has his name plastered all over the paper. Why not the perpetrators?

Brent?

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love_boat 6 years, 7 months ago

Bullies can be very sneaky and know when they can get away with things and when they can't. Teachers and administrators are not likely to see the bully in action. One of my sons was picked on for a while in his middle school in another state. My son decked the kid when no teachers were around and was never bothered again. At least the bully didn't report him for assult. The Denver article was good, thanks for the link.

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spouch 6 years, 7 months ago

Once again the DA and the School District are on some other planet. Randall has been bullied for several years. This was no secret. Our family knows Randall personnally. He is a good kid. The punch was well deserved and way over due. The DA and the school refused to mediate this situation and let it continue. So what does the DA do? Charge Randall, the victim. I dont expect anything less than that. Kudos to the hero's over at the DA's office. Maybe we can charge child sexual assualt victims with tempting pedophiles?

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useyourvoice 6 years, 7 months ago

Isn't anyone horrified that it took the Denver Post covering it on the front page for our little paper to think it was newsworthy? The day it came out in the Post, it was buried in our paper several pages in.

You can't wonder only about what parents are teaching kids when our own "news"paper doesn't think it's worthy enough to make the front page the first time around.

I guess having racial issues in our town upsets the marketing plan for Steamboat.

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id04sp 6 years, 7 months ago

The point is, there should never, ever be a situation in a public school when a teacher is not around. It simply should not happen.

How's that, you ask? Simple. Do not allow students to congregate in any area that is not within the view of a teacher.

And why is it always in gym class? That question should be simple for anyone who's ever been in a gym class to answer. It's because the teachers/coaches leave the kids unattended. It's not that hard to randomly walk around through the gym, locker room, etc., and deter this kind of incident. At least, make it harder!

I was in gym classes, shop classes, etc., in junior high school and high school where the guys with "coach" attached to their names would disappear for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes on a regular basis. That is negligent, irresponsible, and typical of the situations which allow bullying to go on.

I took some bullying, including bruises on the arm and shoulder, for refusing to pay up to bullies who demanded money every week from other students. I never fought them back other than to resist because of the fear of what would happen to me at home if I got suspended. Eventually, I went out for the wrestling team in the 10th grade and ended up pinning the junior varsity quarterback in about 5 seconds flat during gym class in front of about 50 other kids. The kid I pinned outweighed me by about 30 pounds, and he was something of a bully himself. Needless to say, nobody ever messed with me again.

A friend of mine eventually got tired of the bullying and accepted an invitation from one of the jerks to meet him behind the school at lunch time. The next time the bully was seen, he was missing two front teeth, bleeding like a stuck pig, and explaining to the school nurse that he had fallen on the concrete stairs behind the school. This incident both ended a lot of the bullying AND resulted in the closing of the smoking area which had been provided for students who had their parents' permission to smoke.

Then, the next school year arrived, and when I was a junior, a bunch of former junior high school bullies showed up in the 10th grade, and the stuff started over again. A bunch of us stepped in to protect the sophomores from bullying, and the effect was that the bullying moved off campus.

So, bullying is just a part of childhood, and it happens because adults allow it to go on. The difference is that, in 2008, the force can become deadly and the consequences are far more dire, as at Columbine.

If the schools and the teachers are not going to take an active role in prevention, then who? Hire cops? Yeah, hire cops if the teachers are afraid to step in. There are lots of wounded soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq would be great people for this kind of job.

If you just take the time to look at the posts in this thread, it ought to tell you that bullying has always been a problem. So DO SOMETHING.

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useyourvoice 6 years, 7 months ago

I agree with the notion that we all need to do something. If you must send your child to public school, or state funded day care as it becoming, get active in the classroom. Bullying is learned behavior, and most likely learned from someone in a position of trust. Parents bully their children, older siblings bully younger ones, and then it goes outside of the family.

Children always pay the price for adult dysfunction. The parents of the boys who started all this should be absolutely mortified, not going to court. They should have been on their knees begging forgiveness from the defendent, and then looking in the mirror to see what they have taught their kids.

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portagetheyampa 6 years, 7 months ago

The situation with Randall Nelson should hve been handled by school officials who seem to want nothing do do with this type of harassment and downright violationn of Randall's civil rights. Shame on the high school and middle school, too, for letting this go on. What are those principals doing anyway?

I wonder why the DA didn't prosecute the accuser? A real miscarriage of justice here.

And, again, as was mentioned above, our own paper didn't see fit to print this as a major story to draw attention to the problem of bullying. Shame on you, Pilot.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 7 months ago

Portagetheyampa- The paper did a story (to whatever extent) 1 1/2 months ago.

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useyourvoice 6 years, 7 months ago

The story referenced above by Kielbasa (Matthew Stoddard) is not at all coverage of this specific even but a generic glossing over of the 'bullying' issue. It has not been treated as a news story until this article, after the Denver Post covered it in detail, including a great photo.

Let's not make this worse by pretending it has been sufficiently addressed by our school district, community and 'news'paper, when it clearly has not.

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dave reynolds 6 years, 7 months ago

Nice job Randell....he got what he deserved..I was picked on in middle/High school..did the same thing different outcome lost fight but got respect..this should have never happened..I too agree my arent the other kids names in the paper as well..my child was sexually harrassed by a promananent member of this community child and nothing was really done they got talked to and that was about it..my child however was painted as the wrong doer..

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letomayo 6 years, 7 months ago

I met my best high school friend in middle school when he was bullied by a "tough" kid. I went over and stood up for him. That made a lasting friend. I didn't fight I just told the others to get away and to leave him alone. Why aren't students standing up for each other today? They are acting like the people in the middle east when something goes wrong they don't stand up to the bullies and they don't have a safe place because of that. Hitler created the same social isolation and fear in Germany and Saddam in Iraq. The HS has a group of bullies is what I am told and others will not speak up.

I wonder if this paper tries to cover up for the district and our little town because there is a better than though attitude at the paper and I see it bullies some in our town. We deserve an answer but we won't get one.

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raver 6 years, 7 months ago

sometimes the only way to stop a bully is to beat the snot out of them.

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dave reynolds 6 years, 7 months ago

I've told my child violence is a last resort.try to reason,ignore,walk away..go to someone in athoruthy..then if that person keeps it up...well unfortunately then what happens happens..I will say this i bet that punk doesn't mess with randell again and is now either respectful or afraid too bad it came to that but he was warned..sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do

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smoke 6 years, 7 months ago

eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. gandi and mlk need to be taught in school.

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stompk 6 years, 7 months ago

I got stabbed (twice) for standing up against a gang in the Navy.

Yes, there are gangs in the military. Lot's of them.

The gang was Mexicans.

But I don't go around hating all Mexicans. I see Mexicans every day on the jobsite, and most are friendly, and curious (I speak Spanish)

And yes, there are a ton of illegals here.

Instead of judging people as a group, we need to take each person in as an individual, before passing judgement.

And if your a black family, and you move to a predominantly white community, your going to have problems, just because every community has a few morons.

I remember a while back when I worked at the KFC which was at Winonas.

They brought in a black manager. I became good friends with him.

People were pretty good, cause most in the boat don't judge by color, but there were a few that were nasty, mean people.

This was my first taste of real racism. I swear, some people are just lost souls. They care about nothing but themselves and the ones who are close to them.

And this is why we have so many problems in our country.

Sometimes, you have to decide between right and wrong, and many people have paid (even with their lives) to defend their position.

Let's keep bigotry out of Steamboat. This is a destination for people from all over the planet.

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autumnwitch 6 years, 7 months ago

This is just shows how important cameras around the schools and on buses could be. Staff cannot be everywhere policing all the time, were your teachers when you were in school? Mine weren't. The parents of the bullies should have been too embaressed by their own child's behavior to even have thought to take this child to court. I would hope that they have a bit of a clue now but I would doubt it.

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autumnwitch 6 years, 7 months ago

This is just shows how important cameras around the schools and on buses could be. Staff cannot be everywhere policing all the time, were your teachers when you were in school? Mine weren't. The parents of the bullies should have been too embarassed by their own child's behavior to even have thought to take this child to court. I would hope that they have a bit of a clue now but I would doubt it.

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JazzSlave 6 years, 7 months ago

smoke whines:

"you used violence to solve your problem. i bet you got aroused when it all worked out for you."

Not quite. The sound & sensation of his nose breaking, along with all the blood made me nauseous, and I had to resist the urge to puke. A tough little bada$$ I wasn't.

I've been involved in one other altercation since, as an adult, and after I had been involved in martial arts for a number of years. I was able to deal with a belligerent drunk without inflicting or sustaining serious injury. Had he kept swinging after the initial attack, it might have gone differently. And while I would not have been "aroused", I wouldn't have lost any sleep over it, either.

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AmebaTost 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't know how many of you have kids but this stuff goes on everyday in our schools. My kid has been bullied for five years and the school won't do anything. The school district really is a joke. The DA is a joke as well!!

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steamboatali 6 years, 7 months ago

Of course racism exists in our schools because racism exists in our sweet little predominately white town! It's our dirty little secret! Have we forgotten all the fuss over naming the James Brown Bridge? I am stunned and disgusted by the racist comments that I hear from adults in this town. What a shock it is to think you know someone and to hear them make a derogatory remark about jews, blacks, mexicans, whatever. My children don't tolerate racism from their peers because they were raised to respect cultural diversity.

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smoke 6 years, 7 months ago

jazz, does fighting make you fell more like a man? your pathetic.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 7 months ago

ali- Not fair on the James Brown Bridge. The brouha over that was that James Brown isn't connected to Steamboat in any way.

The only time he's been here was for the ceremony. He's never played a concert here. He doesn't live here. I could be wrong, but I haven't heard of any charitable donations he's made to any strong, Steamboat cause. Neither has Vince Neil, with the exception of singing 2 1/2 songs at Levelz. I wouldn't name the bridge after him, either.

Don't get me wrong: I like James Brown's music. Not the biggest fan, but I like it. I don't like his offstage antics, though. I'd have named the bridge after Julie Andrews before Brown; at least she sang "Le Jazz Hot" in Victor/Victoria, which mentions Steamboat Springs.

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OnTheBusGus 6 years, 7 months ago

James Brown did play here. Can't remember when but it was the big show on headwall. Probably around 1998/1999. It wasn't a free show but it was a good show!

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Gladys 6 years, 7 months ago

I remember that show. I was there and it was great. And every disgruntled remark I have ever heard about (naming of) the bridge has had racial undertones. I'm okay with the James Brown part - I have always been an avid fan, but I think the rest is rather silly. Must have been some good drugs around at that time.

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id04sp 6 years, 7 months ago

Kielbasa,

James Brown died in December 2006. This might explain a lot about why he doesn't live here, contribute to Steamboat charities, etc.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 7 months ago

ID- nothing I mentioned ever happened prior to naming the bridge. That was my point: he had no true connection to the valley. Forgot that he did a paid concert in 2002. I had to work that day, so it meant nothing to me. Still, Mick Fleetwod's Zoo played here in the 80's at the Pub, and Stevie Nicks even got up to sing with him. We didn't name anything after them.

In fact, if racism is a motivation for renaming it, why not name it after Randell for standing up for himself to someone who didn't believe in being Politically Correct? A little PC in this instance would have saved the other kid a broken jaw, the taxpayers money, etc. He's local.

I wasn't too thrilled with Brown's arrest record, either. Since convicts now can have Steamboat places named after them, maybe Wall will get the new Courthouse named after him in a year or two.

Also, there was 9yrs from the naming of the bridge to his death. Plenty of time to make some kind of presense known. Hell, name it after Shannon Sharp. At least he was a Bronco in Colorado.

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fish 6 years, 7 months ago

I think that that is a wonderful idea Kielbasa. Lets rename the bridge after Randell Nelson. This young man deserves the honor after the injustices that he has overcome, first because of backwards bully who got his just deserts for starting the fight in the first place, then the injustice from the DAs office for charging him (when it is common knowledge all the other things that they let slide), and from his school who failed to provide him with a safe environment where he could concentrate his efforts on learning instead of just getting through the day without being attacked because of his skin color. Lets rename the bridge after a young man that we can all look up to and be proud of.

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JazzSlave 6 years, 7 months ago

Reminds me of a KKK chapter a few years back - I don't remember where. The kluckers had applied to take part in the local adopt-a-highway program, and were summarily sent packing by whomever was in charge. The kluckers went to court and won. The court ruled they couldn't be discriminated against.

The kluckers got to post signage announcing that 'This section of the highway is maintained by the whatever chapter of the KKK'.

So the authorities renamed that particular stretch of road after Rosa Parks.

Priceless.

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seeuski 6 years, 7 months ago

There is definately a neo nazi presence in the Yampa Valley, I don't know how many but I was driving back from Avon in late August and came upon a green 4dr late 80's GMC Jimmy driven by a 20's to 30's year old white male, on his rear glass were 2 swastikas and the ss symbols on both sides of the swastikas. This bum was behind me all the way to rt.40 where a State Trooper, who I believe noticed these derogatory things on his car, pulled him over. I was cheering and fist pumping all the way to Walton Pond. Just because we won the war in 1945 doesn't mean the fight against this puke is over. I am sure the Jews of Europe were sure that the rhetoric would go away if they just turned the other cheek, but it didn't, and 6 million+ dead later, including many of my relatives, the true nature of the disease of hate was known to the world. The point is the inactions of those in power, including the Pilot Editors and Educators, will become responsable for future atrocities, which is how I catagorize what Randall Nelson has gone through.

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CoJustice 6 years, 7 months ago

JazzSlave: Good Story, I found more information on it.

Rosa Parks Highway is a portion of United States Interstate 55 in Saint Louis County and Jefferson County, near St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1994 the Ku Klux Klan applied to sponsor the highway for clean up (which allowed them to have signs stating that this section of highway was maintained by the organization). The Missouri Department of Transportation rejected the Klan's application, and the Klan filed suit.

The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled in March 2001 that the Klan had as much right to sponsor a highway for cleanup as did any other organization. In retaliation, the Missouri legislature prominently named the section after civil rights activist Rosa Parks. When asked how she felt about this honor, she is reported to have commented, "It is always nice to be thought of." [1]

The Klan, however, never followed through on its sponsorship agreement, and after required notice was given, on April 4, 2001 the Klan's agreement was terminated for nonperformance.

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dave reynolds 6 years, 7 months ago

hey copyboy Brent print the names of these low lifes..Randells was pr nted so print theirs..Smoke still believe what Randell did was right there comes a time when enough is enough..I respect your beliefs but dont go after Jazz cause he has different ones..martial arts teaches you self control..fortunately

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smoke 6 years, 7 months ago

jazzjerk... you got into martal arts for reveng. you got picked on and had to get even. You got your butt kicked and had to get even. eye for an eye and blind to your own blood lust.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm all for knockin' a bully down & out, but what happens when the bully wants revenge and ups the ante? What if Randell swung at the kid's jaw and missed? It sounded like he caught the idiot by surprise, but if the idiot was ready, would Randell have been physically hurt by this twit?

If so, and a teacher stepped in at that point, idiot boy could say Randell swung first, regardless of words being tossed about.

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JazzSlave 6 years, 7 months ago

smoke:

You couldn't be MORE off the mark. But thanks for playing!

kielbasa:

The report indicates that the unnamed(!) neanderthal(s) had established a pattern of hassling Mr. Nelson. I suspect that even the most cursory in-house investigation would have revealed the true source of culpability. In this case, the dipsh%t D.A. filed against Mr. Nelson and lost, regardless of what "idiot boy" may or may not have said.

In any event, your 'what if the bully had been ready' postulate suggests that victims should embrace capitulation. Seek out the path of least resistance to avoid being intimidated.

At some point, someone has to be willing to stand up to the threat of physical harm. Suggesting that your antagonist back off while you seek out adult advice isn't going to work.

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dave reynolds 6 years, 7 months ago

A big 10 4..still wonder why other offenders(real) werent published..guess we will never know..Piolit do whats right..let the public know about this low life racist and his cohorots..practice the freedom you so stand behind

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mud 6 years, 7 months ago

Betting it has something to do with juvenile status.

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dave reynolds 6 years, 7 months ago

Isn't Mr. Nelson a juvenile..bet it has todo with family status in community

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 7 months ago

The other offender(s) were never on trial, from what I can tell. Since the offender is the one who pressed charges on Randell Nelson for assault from the broken jaw, and the offender is still a minor, I'm pretty sure that's why the name wasn't released.

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smoke 6 years, 7 months ago

the papers just protecting the boys from jaazslave the martail moron. he'd go after those guys to get even for getting picked on when he was a little wimp.

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