An internal investigation by Columbia Public Schools has found no violations in the arrest of a black student at Smithton Middle School in January, according to a letter sent to the attorney representing the mother of the student.
The one-page letter sent Friday concluded that board policy was not violated and, therefore, no “corrective action” was recommended.
The letter was shared with the Missourian by Race Matters, Friends. The organization, on the recommendation of the State NAACP chair, has been advocating on behalf of the mother, Kandas Holmes-Barnes, and her daughter since May, president Traci Wilson-Kleekamp said.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint Holmes-Barnes filed in May with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, alleging her 14-year-old daughter was racially profiled in the arrest and traumatized. The girl was wrongfully arrested after being misidentified as one of the students involved in a fight that left one person injured. She was held in juvenile detention overnight. She was released after her mother showed police cellphone video of the fight and it became clear that the girl wasn’t involved.
Via email Friday afternoon, School District spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said that the harassment and discrimination investigation report is an internal and confidential document. “It is not included with any notification of findings until there is a discovery process during litigation,” she wrote. “Given the circumstances of an ongoing inquiry by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, this is still an ongoing matter.”
Baumstark also said that, by law, the school district can’t comment on individual student discipline or personnel information.
Earlier this month, an internal affairs police investigation prompted by the same complaint concluded that the investigation conducted by the school resource officer, Officer Tony Ash, was not thorough. The investigation was shared with Holmes-Barnes.
In the letter sent to Holmes-Barnes’ attorney Friday, the school district acknowledged the Police Department findings: “We intend to coordinate with CPD to facilitate the solutions they identified to address these issues,” the letter reads.
According to the internal police investigation, Ash was told by one school official that Holmes-Barnes’ child directly caused the injury of the other student. Ash made his arrest decision based on the statements and the severity of the injury, the investigation states.
When Ash later asked for written statements for his report, the school official didn’t mention Holmes-Barnes’ daughter in her statement.
Wilson-Kleepkamp criticized the response from the district.
“There’s nothing that prohibits them from releasing the investigation other than the political will not to,” she said.
The district also didn’t attempt to interview Holmes-Barnes’ daughter about the incident or keep her updated with the investigation, Wilson-Kleekamp said.
According to school board policy, Holmes-Barnes has five days to file an appeal of the decision to the superintendent.
The Missouri Commission on Human Rights is still evaluating Holmes-Barnes’ complaint.Holmes-Barnes didn’t respond to multiple inquiries from the Missourian on Friday.