The school’s main academic building is also gone, destroyed by an arson that has raised questions about a possible link to the racial discord.
What remains in the predominately white, rural town are legal battles involving black students who have become known internationally as the “Jena Six.” They are accused of beating a white student at the climax of a period of racial tension sparked by the noose hanging. Five of the students were initially charged as adults with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy; the sixth was charged as a juvenile.
Advocates at the Southern Poverty Law Center and elsewhere, though recognizing clearly that violence is never an acceptable solution to racial tensions, argue that charges against the black students were disproportionate to the actual offense and that their race played a factor in the charges levied. Others disagree.
But, what educators must never forget is this: Had school officials in Jena paid closer attention to racial divisions on campus, addressed the noose-hanging incident properly and kept tensions from escalating, the beating may never have happened at all.