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Sign-on to show your support and denounce this racist attack on one of our Bellingham children

On Wednesday, June 12th, a black 6th grade student who was out on a field trip with his middle school class was the victim of a race-based assault. The student was verbally and physically attacked by a white male in his forties, who hurled racist epithets and fractured two of the child's teeth with his fist. We are looking for the community to rally together and sign the community letter (see below for full text).

Bellingham Mayor & Chief of Police joint statement condemning hate and race-based violence in Bellingham. Click here to view.

By signing you are showing your support for the victim and their family, denouncing this hateful crime, calling for the safety of our black and brown children against race-based violence and harm, and standing in solidarity with the Bellingham BIPOC community.


Thank you for signing on and for your support!

Community Letter

June 15, 2024


Dear Community, 


On Wednesday, June 12, 2024, a Black sixth grade student at Whatcom Middle School was the victim of a racist assault while on a school field trip in downtown Bellingham. The very next day, the perpetrator, Paul Jonathan Bittner, a 42-year-old white male with a long history of violent and non-violent criminal charges, stood before Commissioner Pro Tem Daniel McGreevy and had his bail reduced to half of the prosecution’s recommended amount. Bittner was represented by public defender Matthew Palmer, who worked to steer the court away from the 'hate crime' allegations and reduce the incident to ‘common child abuse.’ 


Make no mistake, what this child experienced, in the place his parents believed to be one of the safest places in the world for him, was a hate crime. 


Adjacent to the police station and in front of his classmates, teachers, and volunteers, this child was verbally and physically assaulted by a man at least twice his size. Two of the child’s teeth were fractured. The harm from this violence was compounded by the court’s response when the perpetrator’s bail was slashed from $1 million as proposed by the prosecutor to $500,000 – which amounts to $50,000 cash out-of-pocket with a bail bond - thus increasing the ease with which the perpetrator could potentially rejoin our community.


As an anti-racist coalition, we will never promote carceral punishment as we do not believe incarceration and punitive means are a way to liberation or safety for anyone; but as this current system exists, and with what we know about Paul Jonathan Bittner, we must rely on the facts and tools available to us to ensure that our Black & Brown children and community members are being protected from a sort of violence that has disproportionately harmed their communities for centuries. We must act as one to let our county officials know that we will not tolerate or accept racist violence of any kind on any person, especially our most vulnerable people, in the places they rely on to be safe. Soon, our elected Superior Court Judges will receive a letter from Whatcom CARE and other aligned organizations clearly stating our position to revisit Bittner’s bail to help ensure that not one more child or adult faces an incident like this one. 


Nothing can restore a sense of safety for an 11-year old child who experienced such violence. That sense of safety has now been taken away from him, but we can stand in solidarity to create safe spaces - and it is imperative that we do so. It may be easy to say this was one isolated incident and “Bellingham is generally a safe place for Black people and other POC,” but this child is not alone in feeling unsafe and treated differently by their peers, teachers, and strangers on the street. Whatcom CARE has heard numerous anecdotes from students, parents, and teachers about racially motivated language, actions, and incidents aimed at students who attend public schools throughout Whatcom County, including the Bellingham School District. This includes racist incidents that happen within our public school buildings and at school-sponsored events and out in their neighborhoods. 


The evening of this hate crime, we sat with students and parents who shared their own experiences of racism in Bellingham Public Schools. One student spoke of his experience hearing his teacher use ‘the N-word’ three times in a Bellingham classroom; that teacher is still teaching in Bellingham. Unfortunately, microaggressions, negligence, and discrimination are commonplace in our schools. Students of color who are learning to be teachers at Woodring College of Education have shared that they do not want to teach in Whatcom County schools, based on their experiences of racism as students and as student teachers. 


This is unacceptable; we cannot remain silent about these issues because silence is violence and our children deserve to feel safe in their schools and communities. 


Yard signs, commissions, and promises are not enough. We need real action in our schools and neighborhoods. We will continue to uplift students of color and their communities through connection to safe spaces, supporting projects that center Black and Brown joy, facilitating classroom discussions, offering anti-racist classroom toolkits, and providing bystander training, as well as through advocacy at personal, community, and legislative levels. We invite all our neighbors and community members to join us in taking action against racism of all kinds in Whatcom County.


Please learn more about ways you can support anti-racist efforts in your school and communities at our website or by attending our monthly meetings (currently held the first Thursday evening of every month - please email us for meeting time and location: 


In solidarity and love, 


Whatcom Coalition for Anti Racist Education

Jason McGill and Remy Styrkowicz, Northwest Youth Services (NWYS)

Rae Rodriguez, Synergy Collective Project, member Whatcom Racial Equity Commission 

Maleek James Womack, Fatherhood the Foundation nonprofit 

Kena Greer Brashear, Black Student Union Advisor 

Lance Edward Jones, Member, Whatcom Racial Equity Commission

Sharayah Lane, Executive Director, Recovery Cafe

Liz Baxter, Bellingham Resident and CEO, North Sound ACH

Atul Deshmane, Whatcom County Planning & Public Utility District Commissioner

Markis Dee, Serenity Outreach Services

Terrance TeeJay Morris, Founder, Bellingham Unity Committee

Travis Tennessen, Director, WWU Center for Community Learning

Dr. Tracey Pyscher, WWU Professor of secondary education,Bellingham resident 

Sislena Grocer Ledbetter, Ph.D Social Psychologist, community member


David L. Curley, Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, Black Lives Matter Team

Devyn Nixon, Divinity Health & Wellness, PLLC

Erik McFrazier, Brothers To Brothers, member Whatcom Racial Equity Commission

Clare McFrazier, parent and community member

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