School Attacks Terrify Gary Student at Bailly

Sharlonda L. Waterhouse, Post-Tribune (Merrillville, Ind.), Feb. 28, 2006

GARY—In a black shirt, James Tokarski, a quiet, self-professed skater boy, sits on his sofa with nowhere to go.

Terrified to return to his new school in Gary, Tokarski said he fends off nightmares and is still healing from black eyes and bruises to his back.

The 14-year-old boy claims he enrolled at Bailly Middle School Feb. 3 and has been harassed ever since.

Since then, according to the Tokarski family, James has been beaten up by groups of kids on three occasions.

He says it’s because he’s white. School officials aren’t confirming that.

“They called me ‘whitey,’ ‘white trash,’ ‘trailer park trash’ and ‘hillbilly’ while they were hitting me,” James Tokarski said. The boy said he simply curled into a fetal position on the ground while he was punched with fists and kicked all over.

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Then, on Feb. 15, according to Barbara and James, a group of kids assaulted him in a school hallway as he waited to enter his social studies class. He says he was knocked unconscious and had to be pulled into a classroom by a teacher.

On Feb. 22, James said he was attacked again while on the playground and also was knocked unconscious.

He said he had to be carried into the school by a group of girls.

The family has filed two police reports and has sought treatment for swellings and discoloration to the left side of James’ face at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Hobart.

The official medical report listed injuries as blunt head trauma, facial contusions and acute sinusitis.

“He’s still in pain,” the mother said. “His neck and back are really hurting a lot.”

“I was lying on the sofa bawling. I didn’t want to go back to school,” James said.

He had been a student in Portage until they learned he was using his grandmother’s address to go to that school. Barbara Tokarski said Portage officials demanded tuition, which they couldn’t afford. So, she put him in Bailly, which is within walking distance.

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One parent of a white child at the school said it is typical for the seven or eight minority students there to be called “whitey” or “white boy.”

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Greer said the district has gone one step further to protect James. They are coupling him with a “lunch buddy.”

“During the time he’s not in class, this person or people will befriend him so he won’t feel isolated or picked on. They will eat lunch with him. This will start immediately,” Greer said, adding that school officials have held a conference with the family.

But that’s not what Barbara Tokarski wants.

She wants Gary Schools to pay for her son to go to school elsewhere, if not Portage then Merrillville or Hobart.

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