Student targeted with racism at Burrillville High School speaks out

Natasha Daigle

Warning: Many of the pictures near the end of this piece are racist and upsetting.

On Valentine’s Day, Natasha Daigle, a Burrillville High School junior, was in her English Class presenting her project on segregation in the days of the Roaring 20’s when she herself was confronted with racism. After the completion of all the presentations, a circle/slash “no” symbol over the n-word in large lettering was projected onto a 32×40 inch whiteboard in her classroom. Though it would have been easier to ignore this event, Natasha wanted her story to be heard. I met with Natasha and her mother, Jackie Daigle, at a local Dunkin Donuts.

Natasha is a bright, intelligent, African American young woman with an infectious smile. She is adopted and has an sister who is Latina also a Junior. Her time at Burrillville High School has been challenging. She has had to deal with a lot of racism over the past three years. Most of these incidents have involved just a handful of students, and few students have stood by her side. The N word has been messaged to her on Facebook and posted via Instagram on several occasions. According to Natasha’s adopted sister, even teachers are guilty of racism. One high school social studies teacher allegedly said, “God made a mistake making Black people.”

Natasha has remained strong and says she is determined not to allow racism to get her down.

This last Valentine’s Day, however, was too much for her and her mother to take. They decided to speak out to make sure what happened was not swept under the rug and that racism in Burrillville is discussed and called out. When the words were displayed, said Natasha, all but five classmates decided to laugh about it and turned directly to Natasha while it was displayed, signaling her out. She didn’t cry, or laugh. After the event Natasha emailed the administration to let them know what happened and an incident report was submitted. According to a Facebook post recently taken down, at least 3 students were involved with planning the attack.

In the week since the event Natasha has had conversations with members of the faculty at the high school. Interim Vice Principal Ashley Crenca, according to Natasha, has been a strong advocate on her behalf. On Friday, her mother Jackie Daigle had her first conversation with Superintendent Dr Michael Sollitto. The meeting was productive and Sollitto discussed with Jackie the need for racial diversity training for staff and teachers. Sollitto also said that there was a police investigation underway. Jackie expressed surprise that her daughter had not been contacted by the police or the school resource officer.

Jackie believed that the police missed an opportunity by not interviewing Natasha and the other students in the classroom right away. She felt that it was imperative to get kids talking before students could be corced into changing their stories. To date, one student has been reprimanded and has been suspended for 10 days. However, Natasha does not believe the suspended student is the main person behind the incident. Natasha and her mother are hoping that students more responsible for the action will be identified and that justice will be served. In the meantime, Jackie is concerned for the wellbeing of both her daughters and is afraid that their grades may suffer due to this incident.

Natasha remains in strong spirits. She does not want to see any students expelled but does believe that anyone involved in the incident should be suspended and that they should write her letters of apology. Natasha and her mom think that racism has increased since Trump has been in office and they felt more protected under Obama. Looking forward to her senior year, Natasha has aspirations of attending Johnson & Wales for forensic psychology or behavioral analysis. She knows that both degrees would require a lot of work but it is clear she is up to the challenge.

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About Lauren Niedel 8 Articles
Lauren Niedel is currently a member of the RI Democratic State Committee - serving her 2nd term on the Platform Committee. She has been reelected for 2018-2022 session. She was also the State contact and delegate for the Bernie 2016 campaign.

34 Comments

  1. Brave girl, Natasha! Keep your chin up, your eyes focussed ahead, and continue to defend human dignity in the face of ignorance for the sake of all of us.

  2. Natasha, as a student at JWU, you will feel at home here. One of my favorite things about my school is that it is so diverse. Keep your head up, you are bigger than any one of those students.

  3. Natasha, please remember that those jerks are the exception, that there are many more of us out here that respect and support you!

  4. I’m so sorry you had to face that type of ugly at such a young age. I’m proud of you for not sitting quietly by, but, for standing tall and saying it’s NOT alright! Congratulations! This country needs more of you right now, if only to meet the onslaught of racism that this administration has allowed to flourish.
    Wishing only the best for your future at Johnson and Wales. 🙂

  5. Adding the trump comment discredited the entire article. Your bio shows you used this victim to push your own agenda. Completely unnecessary.

  6. Racism in the US has gone up under Trump. People of all ages have been emboldened by the rhetoric of the President. As someone who is deeply concerned about the escalation of hate in this area and throughout the state I felt it was a very appropriate question to ask. Natasha gave an honest heart felt answer without any type of coaching ore encouragement from me. This article was about Natasha and what she has gone through.

  7. Belinda Belinda Belinda. It’s prety indisputable that since Trump has been elected racist people have somehow felt empowered to spew their beliefs.

    The writer only included that because the mother and daughter said it was their experience that since Trump is giving the go ahead to disrespect people who aren’t a reflection of them selves.

    So where do you stand on this. You read the article about a young girl who was singled out and abused. Your only thoughts are of political ajenda.

  8. How vulgar. The entire school and everyone in it should be involved in a schoolwide assembly to talk on this and, together, address this unacceptable, anti social behavior. A facilitator experienced in bringing awareness on personal racism would be a wise choice. Natasha was the victim here but the whole school including faculty and administration have dehumanized themselves as well as Natasha. What good can come from that? Are people really that stupid? Trump did not invent racism but he is an apologist for every manifestation of it. Oh, and he champions the amorality of it as well.

  9. I lived at 40 Eagle Peak Rd in the late 80’s with my two brothers. We owned “Isom Brothers Construction” at that time. My father, James Isom was the reason I bought that property. He said; “Blacks” were not allowed to buy property in Burriville in his day. Okay, now it’s time to enroll my daughter, Rachelle Terry and my son, John Terry into Burriville High School. My brother, Ernest Isom was with me during this process. The first thing that they said to me was; Mrs. Terry you do realize your children will be the only “Back Children” in this school and a first for the school. I responded with; “What does that mean? Do they get get “Special” treatment? Again, what does that mean? No answer. I made it very clear to them that if my children come home complaining about being discriminated in any manner we will be in court. My children were the first “African Americans to graduate from Burriville High School. It was an experience that they will never forget. And neither will I… if you want to know more feel free to contact me.

  10. I remember John he was a senior when I was a freshman, and he was one of the nicest people there!!!! And the fact that he was there opened my eyes to a lot of the false things I was told as a kid who grew up in Burrillville!!!! 🙂

  11. Natasha, YOU GO GIRL!!! I am so proud of you standing up for yourself and others in that community! It is about time! As the School Nurse at BHS in the 90’s to early 2000’s I witnessed the same thing for myself! it was disgraceful! I experienced a similar situation, even though I am not a person of color, during a terrible incident that occurred to a young girl. The girl and her family was chastised and ostracised and she was the VICTIM!! Because I was closely involved with the situation and included in a newspaper article, I was also ostracised by my own colleagues for “dissing” their community. SHAME ON THEM ALL!

  12. Natasha, I am saddened that the school hasn’t done more to support you. This was no small incident, and should not be overlooked. However you are handling it with class and grace, and I want to thank you for paving the way for my daughter who will attend BHS in the future.

  13. Natasha, never feel bad. Fight and call the police. File a case in court if the school authorities would not act! Being Americans, we should not be subjected to unfair treatment. Having different skin color is no reason to be a subject of hate. Hitler is no longer around.

  14. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this and I have lived in Burrillville for many years now the police really don’t ever do anything at all they don’t care. And the school department is a joke. I’m so happy you went betond them to tell your story about this dirty town. Good luck to you

  15. Racism has absolutely not gone up under Trump, facts show that fabrication of racism, sexism, homophobia, have gone up. The left demands outrage in the form of discrimination in order to operate. Supply and Demand. The actual supply of racism has been below the left’s demand, and thus we see many high profiled fabrication, like Jussie Smollett.

  16. Why was the social studies teacher not investigated for making such a hateful comment? Fired! What did the teacher do when this incident occurred? Why was the principal initially silent? This is horrifying. Stay strong, Natasha.

  17. Absolutely not true. Check out the statistics from the southern poverty Law Center. Fabrications are very very rare and occur to stand 1 to 2% of incidents .

  18. Absolutely not true. Read actual statistics on the website for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Perhaps if you had one ounce of humanity, instead of sticking up for our racist president you would send Natasha some comforting words of support.

  19. I don’t think Trump has anything to do with this, I believe the democrats have been pushing narratives. Also I went to Burrillville high school and I can tell you there was very few people of color in the school, kids are just not used to interacting with different ethnicities. In the real world they will either learn or have a very difficult life.

  20. Natasha and her Mom have a right to say how they are feeling and what they think is contributing to it whether or not the new President had anything to do with it.

  21. Sounds like you’re raising a strong woman Jackie. I only wish this article focused on that. The tone of this article is just ‘this girl is a victim and burrillville is a racist shithole’. Your daughter was a victim here, but more importantly she is a brave woman who’s standing up to and not backing down. I really feel this article should have been far more positive, because I really see this as a positive thing she’s doing.

    Are the kids behind this hardened bigots? No, probably not. Likely they’re just misguided and looking for a shock effect laughs. Is it funny? Absolutely not. Could it be a learning experience for others led by your brave daughter? For sure… and we should all applaud her for stepping up and being that person.

    Not sure if when you sat for the interview you knew the authors webpage would have an ‘abolish ice’ banner on the top. I’m taking no side on the issue, just pointing out that right when a ‘news organization’ clearly has an agenda in it’s reporting, people tend to give their work less credit. Your daughters story deserves better than that.

  22. As hateful as the initial confrontation was, it showed that there are many more people who are willing to take a stand against it. I believe Trump’s attitude has definitely allowed racism to surface again.

  23. Hey Shirley, I understand the sentiment. It’s important to note that racism operates in a myriad of ways. Those jerks sadly aren’t just “an exception”. They are one of many examples of how white supremacist values operate unchecked. White folks across the board need to unlearn the racist values we’ve been taught (some are obvious, some are subtle), listen to PoC, and diligently work to stop allowing racism to thrive.

  24. Hi Jackie, I am sorry Natasha and your family have been through this, and would like to offer assistance if I can. I am a diversity consultant and trainer in Providence, and have worked with school systems, towns, and community groups. If you wanted to explore options, please contact me at judy@judithkayeconsulting.com (check out my web site, too). I could potentially deliver an anti-bias workshop for the school, facilitate a community forum, speak at the local library, or offer some other service. Sending you strength and fortitude.

  25. I lived there for 18 years. Brought up my children. Yes. It was racial. I purposed made sure my children were well traveled etc so they understood the balance of the country/world was not this way. We have all since moved away. So sorry to see that it is still occurring.

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