The family of an 11-year-old girl who they say was the target of a racially-motivated attack is calling for an honest conversation about race.
The family’s attorney, La Ronna Lassiter Saunders, held a press conference Thursday.
“We are not here to make speculations. We’ve seen a problem, and we’re here to give solutions and ask the community to come together to address this problem,” Saunders said.
According to a release from Saunder’s office, Nevaeh Thomas was visiting friends at an apartment complex in Shawnee when a 12-year-old boy started calling them racial slurs. All of the girls were Black, and the boy was white.
The boy then allegedly threatened the girls with a knife and hit Thomas on the head, leaving her unconscious. The Shawnee Police Department report said the boy used a blunt object.
Nevaeh’s mother, Brandi Stewart, says she believes her daughter was attacked because she refused to be bullied.
“No kids were saying anything back and Nevaeh is really big on her Black Lives Matter. I’m sure she said ‘My black is beautiful,’” Stewart said.
Thomas received eight stitches in her mouth for her injuries and spent the night at an area hospital. Nearly a week after the incident, she is still recovering from a concussion.
She spoke out at the press conference with a message for her peers.
“I think kids need to get together and talk about racism. It’s okay if we’re different or we have different opinions. But it’s not okay to hate and judge each other on their color and their skin,” said Thomas.
Her alleged attacker has been charged with one count of aggravated battery, a felony charge. Kristi Bergeron, a spokeswoman for the Johnson County District Attorney’s office, says he is currently under house arrest.
Neveah’s mother said while she is content with the charge, she hopes the boy and the community can both learn from this incident.
“It is so important that we talk to our children about racism. We need to tell them how expressions of hate can make others feel and how they can leave scars that last a lifetime,” Stewart said.
Another platform the family is advocating for is equal treatment of juvenile cases, regardless of race.
Saunder’s office said it took more than two hours for the attacker to be arrested.
Pastor Terry Bradshaw of Empowerment Temple says the outcome may have been different if the attacker had not been white.
“In the justice system, specifically with juveniles, black males are not treated the same.”
Bradshaw says he first wants to see Thomas’ attacker convicted, then tackle the system as a whole.
“He should not be allowed to be at home enjoying the bliss of his family while Nevaeh is at home dealing with memory loss,” said Bradshaw.
Bradshaw said that Thomas’ attorney and family are paying close attention to the justice system to make sure it is consistent in their approach to this case.
Saunder is asking members of the community to come forward with their own experiences with juvenile sentencing for comparison to make sure the system does not treat the 12-year-old better or worse than they would a child of color.
Once Thomas is healed, she says she plans on holding a walk against racism led by her and other children.