Black Student Threatened with Lynching by Lexington Catholic High School Teammate

School will not release student’s transcript for transfer

By Patrice K. Muhammad

Posted Online April 6, 2016 6:35p; Updated April 6, 2016 11:30p

Denisha Vinegar folds her son’s Lexington Catholic sports uniforms and will put them away since he won’t be returning. Also pictured, her mother Earlene Neal.

Denisha Vinegar asked her son for his Macbook so she could give the serial number to a repairman who was ordering a replacement for his cracked screen. While the laptop computer was unlocked and in her possession, Denisha took the opportunity to peek around her teenage son DaMarco’s laptop and stumbled across a disturbing text exchange in which her sons life was threatened.

A boy, later determined to be a football teammate, singled DaMarco out in a group message about turning in money.

“I was confused why he’d ask DaMarco for money, so I kept reading to see why. Then I saw things like ‘picking cotton’ and ‘sell crack to get it’ and stuff about me being on Maury because he doesn’t know who his father is’’, said Denisha.

Mid-stream, the name of the text conversation was changed by this teammate and re-titled “Damarco I’m gonna lynch you’’.

The bully said these things in the group text:

“Damarco lynch means I’m gonna hang you bc you’re black and I just might’’

“your mom is on an episode of Maury bc u don’t know your real dad’’

“I don’t care if you steal it or sell crack just get the f***ing money’’

“damarco I’ll hire you to pick my cotton $1 per week’’

“turn in your welfare check; Food stamps accepted’’

DaMarco doesn’t have a cellphone but can receive text messages through an iMessenger app which delivers them to his computer, where his mother saw them.

There are several names and phone numbers of DaMarco’s Lexington Catholic football teammates on the text list, who sat idly by as this student verbally assaulted and threatened to kill Demarco demanding that he bring in money for a fundraiser.

Denisha says this threat to kill her son was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

In June 2015, during summer football camp, a Caucasian student came to DaMarco’s room and said to his roommate that all Black people smell like piss.

In October 2015, Denisha was told by her son’s Latin teacher that he is being mean to a girl in class. Denisha asked if it is the same girl who teased Demarco about his complexion and made comments about picking cotton. Denisha asked what the teacher said to that girl or her parents, but the teacher continued to focus on Demarco’s reaction and made excuses for the girl.

DaMarco began to fear more for his safety after they reported the incident. “He said [the bully] told him that he’d spit in his face in front of the coach and nobody would do anything about it. He said he’d noose my son with a chain instead of rope. I asked who was there when he said these things and my son didn’t know the other boy’s names because they were upperclassmen and he was new.’’

A Police report against the bullying student has been filed. Detectives came to Denisha’s home, collected statements and evidence including her son’s laptop. The police report obtained for this story notes that the text messages where received as evidence.

This is being investigated as a hate crime. Lexington Police Detectives are expected to make contact with the accused students parents this week to cite him and give him a court date. Once cited, Lexington Catholic will be informed of the investigation by law enforcement.

To add insult to injury, Denisha said Lexington Catholic has not released DaMarco’s transcript. She has been saddled with a $4000 bill. She said the bill was because they did not meet fundraising goals that would have reduced his tuition by the time he withdrew and his transcripts are being held until she pays. He has enrolled in a public high school but without this transcript he cannot be placed in the appropriate level courses and will be short graduation credit if not resolved.

Good Impression Turned Bad

lex cath logo

Denisha said that she’d never heard anything negative about Lexington Catholic High School and was warmly welcomed when she arranged for a visit after her brother relayed that the football coach was interested in her son.

DaMarco’s uncle Devin Neal said, “I got a call from Mark Perry, the football coach. I didn’t know him, never met him. He called to ask about the boys and when we were going to bring them to the school.’’ Devin knew the coach was referring to his nephew Demarco and his own son who is a year younger. Devin is a known youth football coach for several leagues around town.

Denisha called Lexington Catholic and scheduled a time for a tour but was called back and told that the coach wanted to be there so she took another date. “The lady on the phone sound really excited when she called back. I was really impressed that the coach knew who my son was and he made me feel he was really welcoming him.’’

Devin was excited for the boys to have opportunities that he and his sister did not. He was going to enroll his son there for high school also.

So it came as a total shock when he heard what happened to his nephew. Devin said he couldn’t believe what his sister told him so he asked to see the computer for himself.

Devin said, “When I saw it I made a call to the coach. Coach Perry said he’d pass the information on to the Vice Principal, but I felt he should have been the leader on this. He took sides.’’

The coach put the two boys together and pressured DaMarco into saying that he was friends with the bullying teammate even after Demarco said repeatedly they were NOT friends.

“I know coaches can be intimidating to a young boy, especially behind closed doors,’’ said Devin.

DaMarco was a freshman at Lexington Catholic who played football, and was new to the Catholic school system, coming from Fayette County Public Schools. He excelled and played in a few varsity football games and was conditioning for the track team before the threats caused his mother to withdraw him.

Denisha said no one from the school called her after they reported the threat. She reached out to Father Norman Fischer, the Black priest (of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church) who is listed as school chaplain.

“When I reached him, he said he hadn’t even heard about the incident,’’ said Denisha. However, later he became the mouthpiece for the school and was the only person in touch with her and her brother.

Father Norman described his role as “pastoral healing’’. He knew this was an “unhealthy relationship” between the boys and wanted to mediate and bring some healing for everyone involved.

“It was tense, awkward and unfortunate,’’ said Fr. Norman. “I recognized there was a need for an apology.’’ He described the apology to Demarco from the classmate as “very sincere.’’

Denisha is not satisfied by that. “It wasn’t sincere. This all happened over a period of time. If he was remorseful he’d have come back and apologized on his own. That is not sorry. He’s sorry because it’s been made public and he’s sorry for what is coming.’’

Denisha believes the bully who made the racist statements only received an in-school suspension.

The 2015-15 Lexington Catholic HS student handbook lists, “Written or verbal assault/threat made against any student, faculty, or administrative member of Lexington Catholic High School’’ as an offense that warrants expulsion.

Lexington Catholic officials have refused to give specifics on how the student was disciplined but Vice Principal Jonathan Kincheloe did confirm the offending student was still enrolled. When asked, Kincheloe said “he did not feel comfortable’’ making a statement of zero tolerance for this type of behavior.

Pictures from the accused teens Instagram social media account show the teen aiming a large assault rifle type fire arm and in a separate photo there is a pickup truck with a large confederate flag flying from the back of the flat bed.

Additionally, the football coach may have violated rules by contacting DaMarco’s uncle about him attending the school. In the “Athletic Matters’’ section of the handbook it states “no staff member shall contact a student athlete outside of the feeder system of schools in accordance with KHSAA Bylaw 10.’’

Earlene Neal, DaMarco’s grandmother is appalled by the lack of response. “I’m highly upset. I’ve been with Fayette County Public Schools for 24 years. We would’ve done something.’’

For DaMarco’s great aunt Teresa Gardner Golightly this brought up painful memories. “This is a hate crime as far as I’m concerned,’’ she said. “When we integrated Morton Middle School, we were called niggers, spit on, police called, stuff written on the bathroom walls. It was horrible. When people get up the nerve to say it, they’ll do it. [Denisha] was right to take him out of there. I was afraid for him.’’

The Key Newsjournal will continue to follow this story.