NAACP Will Review Claims Of Mishandled Racism In Dover, Hampton Schools

May 7, 2019

Seacoast NAACP president Rogers Johnson speaks at the group's May meeting in Portsmouth.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The national office of the NAACP will investigate recent incidents of alleged racism in Dover and Hampton public schools, according to local officials with the civil rights group.

Seacoast NAACP president Rogers Johnson said at their monthly branch meeting Monday night that the organization’s national leadership in Washington, D.C. is having him write up the details of each situation for further review.

The Dover incident occurred in December, when a high school history teacher gave an assignment that led students to sing a racist parody song in class.

A cell phone video of the song went viral, and the teacher, John Carver, was placed on paid leave. He’s undergoing diversity training and is expected to return to work this fall.

The white student who filmed the song was recently suspended for fighting, according to Johnson. He says she’s been the target of ongoing harassment for filming the song.

The Hampton issue dates back more than two years. It centers on a third-grade girl, the adopted black daughter of John and Julie Cochrane, who are white.

The Cochranes say school officials didn’t properly respond to a string of reports that their daughter was being bullied for her race.

John Cochrane was at Monday’s Seacoast NAACP meeting. He says his daughter is much happier since they transferred her out Hampton schools in March.

“It happened again, and it happened again, and finally we said, ‘Enough is enough, we have to do something,’” he says.

"We need to put an end to this, because children's well-being is at stake here." --Rogers Johnson, Seacoast NAACP

The school district disputes some of the Cochranes’ claims, saying they handled the incidents appropriately.

But John Cochrane says he’s talked to other families in Hampton and elsewhere who say they’ve also seen lax school responses after their children were bullied.

“The folks I’ve talked to are all over the state. Some are racial [bullying], some are not,” he said. “They are all equally sad.”

The Cochranes asked Hampton for a “manifest educational hardship designation” that would have had the district help cover their tuition expenses at their new private school in Massachusetts.

The district declined that request, saying the manifest hardship policy only applies to transfers to other public schools in-state.

But broadly, Rogers Johnson says the Dover and Hampton incidents represent a larger pattern of New Hampshire school officials “obfuscating” on issues of discrimination.

He called on his members to speak up about that pattern, and agitate for more aggressive response to students’ concerns about prejudice and bullying.    

“This is not to be tolerated anymore,” Johnson says. “We need to put an end to this, because children’s well-being is at stake here.”

There’s no timeline for the NAACP’s potential response to the Dover and Hampton incidents.

Meanwhile, the Hampton School District will hold a community listening session about diversity, stemming from the Cochranes’ case, at 6:30 p.m. at Hobbs House on May 20.