No beating around the bush.

Last Saturday, a high school math teacher named Truman Buffett posted an online video that threw a Seattle private school into a panic. The video accuses administrators at the Bush School, a K–12 school with 560 students, of being more lenient toward students whose parents make significant donations.

Case in point: a racially charged letter, circulated in January 2010 by a senior student whose friends are known around the school as the "real rich boys crew." It was a fake acceptance letter from Harvard University that began: "I hope you is as excited to read dis' as I is to write it!... We know dat you ain't the brightest kid on the block, but you 'sho is tha coolest... You have to earn your keep and get grades or we'll kick your itch ass out on the cold ass mutha fuckin street nigga, naked, let your white ass get did from behind!" (The full letter is posted here.) The administration's decision to not punish the student who allegedly wrote the letter, Buffett says, contributed to Buffett's eventual departure from the Bush School.

Over time, the real rich boys crew had "gotten the message from the administration that there really was nothing that they could do that was ever going to get them in any sort of real trouble," Buffett says. "There was a pattern on the part of the administration to turn a blind eye."

Buffett no longer works at the Bush School. In March of last year, he and head of school Frank Magusin had a conversation about renewing Buffett's contract. "It was pretty mutual," Buffett says, "in that I'd already given him a letter saying, in effect, if I can't feel better about this administration, I have no intention of returning." His contract was not renewed.

Buffett says he decided to finally tell this story when a current Bush student approached him for an interview as part of a student project called the "Big Broadcast"—24 hours of student-generated content. But when school administrators learned about the student's story, he says, they threatened to pull the plug on the entire Big Broadcast project. So Buffett made a video of his own.

"There is no disagreement between faculty and administration about what this letter is," Buffett says. There is also no disagreement about who wrote it; the student signed his name to it and was, Buffett says, "unrepentant."

The faculty unanimously called for the student's suspension in winter, Buffett says, and the school deans recommended that the student be suspended for three days. Jack McHenry, upper school director, called a meeting and assured the faculty that the student would be "held accountable," Buffett says.

But McHenry called another faculty meeting, where he reportedly announced that "the school's response would be nothing," according to Buffett. No suspension, no written explanation, nothing.

"We spent time as a faculty during that meeting discussing the family's wealth," Buffett recounts. "We spent time discussing the student's father's considerable influence... What none of us heard during that meeting was any sort of moral or ethical justification for this idea of throwing out all of the disciplinary action that we had decided was the right thing to do."

Bush School administrators—including McHenry and head of school Magusin—refused to comment for this story, and communications director Maia Kaz said the Bush School has no comment on the matter.

But to former students who spoke to The Stranger say they aren't surprised by Buffett's story and that wealth-based favoritism was not unusual. (It has also been written about before, including a 2007 story in The Stranger.) Lucas Epling, who graduated from the school in 2008, says "there was a very clear separation" between students based on wealth.

"The school wants to make money," Epling says. "If they had a problem with a student who was a big donor, as opposed to a student whose family wasn't a big donor, they'd side more with the big donor. Any business would, because they're a business."

Is there a culture of racism at the Bush School? "Maybe the students aren't outright racist," Epling says, "but they weren't informed."

Tuition for the 2010–2011 school year was $19,315 for kindergarten to second grades and $25,760 for 9th to 12th grades. And according to the school's 2009 tax filing, donations fell by $2 million (from $3,851,361 to $1,851,972). The Bush School, like nonprofits everywhere, is scrambling to keep its donations coming.

DJ Johnson, who also graduated in 2008, agreed. "I was the only African American guy in the high school, and I definitely felt cornered and awkward," he says. "I was expected to speak for the whole community constantly." Other students, he said, "made constant racial jokes, used the n-word—tons of people did. They see some black guy and say he was a gangster, instantly profile them as something negative. There was a Hispanic student, and if something went missing, they'd always blame him for stealing it."

There was a "rich white guy crew" when Johnson was in school as well: "Lots of kids were baffled by how these not-so-great students ended up at great colleges. And a lot of those kids were wealthier. There was so much favoritism that it was really hard for some students."

Buffett's experiences with racism at schools are painful and personal. His older, adopted sister, Vera, was African American and routinely suffered racial harassment at her middle school in Wisconsin. "We saw people at the schools that we were a part of tolerate this, not understand that this was a big deal, not take it seriously." One Friday afternoon in 1983, Vera left school, went home, and hanged herself.

"Bad behavior or bullying or harassment is going to prompt the administration to check the ledger books and see what sort of donations have been made by a family before they decide whether or not they're going to act?" Buffett says. "They're giving a how-to guide on privilege—a how-to guide on how to move through the world with money and do what you want." recommended