Crime & Courts

Cardinal Newman School principal apologizes for keeping racist threat quiet

5 things to know about Cardinal Newman School

Here are five facts about Cardinal Newman School, located in Richland County.
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Here are five facts about Cardinal Newman School, located in Richland County.

The principal at Cardinal Newman School apologized to parents Monday night for failing to tell them about racist videos and threats against the campus by a 16-year-old student.

Robert Loia, who took the job at Cardinal Newman this summer, issued his apology after a group of parents blasted the school earlier in the day for leaving them in the dark about the student’s threats. The school found out about last spring’s threats in mid-July, but didn’t tell parents until after The State newspaper reported on the issue Friday night.

“We heard first-hand about the pain and anxiety so many have experienced since news about the threatening videos (was) released Friday,’’ he wrote in a letter to parents. “The feedback we received has helped me reflect on what has occurred in the past several weeks.

“I realize now that I should have communicated with you immediately when I learned a violent threat had been made against our school community. For this I take responsibility and offer my heartfelt apology. It is my hope and prayer to earn back your trust.’’

The student, whose name has been withheld by authorities and school officials because he is a minor, was videotaped firing guns at targets meant to represent black people. He said he hated African Americans and used a racial slur to describe them. He also threatened violence against the Catholic school in northeast Columbia. The school has about 500 students.

The violent threats prompted his arrest. The videos, which surfaced in July, were recorded in May before the academic year ended.

Cardinal Newman officials chose not to notify parents until after The State reported on the issue Friday night.

Over the weekend, Loia said the threat from the student had been ‘’neutralized’’ after Richland County Sheriff’s deputies arrested him on a charge of making threats against students. The school and the Sheriff’s Department also said school was out for the summer, lessening the urgency to tell parents.

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But many parents said that was a bad decision. Some said Monday the information was important because the student could have had sympathizers with violent tendencies. The Sheriff’s Department and local prosecutors have declined to provide details about the disposition of the case.

It is not known whether the 16-year-old student is incarcerated and whether acquaintances who received the group texts and emails are under scrutiny.

Loia’s letter said he wants parents to feel confident that their children are safe at Cardinal Newman. He plans a town hall meeting with parents Thursday night at the school.

“We also want to assure you that we will be doing everything in our power to ensure that your children are treated with the respect and dignity which they deserve,’’ he wrote. “I am currently working on a plan to enhance safety on school grounds and to address issues of prejudice, racism and diversity.’’

Sammy Fretwell has written about the environment for more than 20 years. Among the matters he covers are climate change, wildlife issues, nuclear policy, pollution, land protection, coastal development, energy and state environmental policy. Fretwell, who grew up in Anderson County, is a University of South Carolina graduate. Reach him at 803 771 8537.
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