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[March 26, 2007]
NAACP escorts alleged hate crime victim to school
(Stamford Advocate, The (Stamford, CT) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Mar. 26--STAMFORD -- Surrounded by a phalanx of family members and NAACP officials, the victim of an alleged hate crime returned to Stamford High School Monday to confront school officials and resume classes.
It was the first day Candace Owens, 17, had attended Stamford High since early February, when several teenage boys left her several racist and threatening voice mail messages.
The messages were left by boys sitting in a car late Feb. 3.
One of the boys in the car was the 14-year-old son of Mayor Dannel Malloy, but it is unclear if his voice was one of four that can be heard in the messages.
At least one of the boys is a Stamford High student who may be in a class with Owens, NAACP officials said. Two security guards will trail Owens in school, and one will attend classes with her, officials said.
Owens, who was the victim of an alleged hate crime in 2005, said she was thankful for "the support system" and ready to return to school.
"This is her senior year," said her father, Robert Owens, "one of the biggest moments of your life."
NAACP officials yesterday called for police to arrest all four teens that can be heard on the tape.
Police have said they expect to arrest at least one of the boys this week. School officials have said they will not discipline any students until police finish their investigation -- a stance the NAACP criticized again Monday.
"Here we have these racist, misogynist, classist messages, and there is no investigation" by the school," said Dawne Westbrook, an attorney for the state NAACP.
She accused school officials of "shifting the blame" by delaying any action until the police make an arrest. "Students have been suspended for less," Westbrook said.
Joshua Starr, the city's superintendent of schools, has said any arrested students would likely be expelled.
He said schools would only discipline students linked to an incident off school grounds without an arrest in a case "that significantly impedes the educational process."
Police Sgt. Joseph Kennedy, who is heading the investigation, backed the school's decision to stand back until an arrest is made.
"We can't have two entities investigating this crime," Kennedy said.
Starr called the messages "horrendous" after hearing the recordings for the first time Monday.
Police have not commented on the details of the investigation, but several sources familiar with the case have confirmed investigators interviewed Malloy's son.
In a statement released last week, the mayor said his son cooperated with police and reported "all facts known or witnessed by him regarding the incident."
Malloy said his son has no prior relationship with Candace Owens or the Stamford High student reportedly at the center of the investigation.
Owens and that student, a former friend, got into a dispute at Stamford High after Owens heard the boy making fun of her family's financial situation, according to a letter Owens wrote to the NAACP.
The two argued in class, and school officials suspended the student from school Feb. 2, the letter states.
Owens received three racist voice mail messages the next night. The callers use a racial epithet to describe Owens and threaten to kill her.
Four distinct voices can be heard on the tape. All four use the same racial epithet.
Owens played the tape for school administrators Feb. 5, and they turned the matter over to police, Starr said Monday.
Starr would not say whether Owens is in a class with any of the suspects.
Three teenage girls are currently facing hate crime charges for assaulting and taunting Candace Owens in the parking lot of a video store on High Ridge Road in 2005, attorneys have said.
The alleged ringleader of the group, Emily Buckwalter, then a 17-year-old Trinity Catholic High School student, attacked Owens because she was rumored to be involved with Buckwalter's boyfriend, police have said.
Two of Buckwalter's friends, Samira Chagares and Mary Bigelow, both Stamford High students in 2005, face hate crime charges for allegedly calling Owens a racial epithet and kicking her during the attack, police records show. Their cases are pending at state Superior Court in Stamford.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Stamford Advocate, Conn.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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