Today, school officials at Jena High School banned students from wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Free the Jena 6.” Jena 6 is the term coined to describe the six black high-school students in Jena, La., who were charged last December with attempted second-degree murder for allegedly assaulting a white student who taunted them with racial slurs. Civil rights leaders, radio personalities, and organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists want to bolster awareness about this troubling case, which they say has received little play in the media.
The white student in the fight reportedly suffered a concussion but was not hospitalized. Prior to the fight, three white students had been suspended for hanging three nooses from a tree in the school courtyard. The earlier incident was not reported to the police.
School officials had the tree demolished last month, according to the Shreveport Times.
In late June, one of the six black students was convicted on a reduced charge of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery. He faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison. The five other defendants are awaiting trial on attempted murder and conspiracy charges.
The charges sparked outrage in the black community and drew attention from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is monitoring the cases. The Rev. Al Sharpton has also voiced his concern, saying the charges indicate a different standard of justice for blacks and whites.
"The court's decision in the ‘Jena 6’ case has the potential to be ground-breaking and shift attitudes about race and justice in the United States," said Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, in a released statement. "It is critical that news organizations cover this court proceeding with the same dedication and persistence that is given to stories such as the upcoming presidential elections and the recent trouble surrounding the Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick."