High schoolers stage walkout after photos of classmates in blackface surface: 'We want justice'

High school students in Illinois staged a walkout on Tuesday after pictures of fellow classmates in blackface surfaced on social media over the weekend.

The photos and video, which were originally posted to Snapchat, show a group of white males wearing blackface as they pull up to a fast food drive-thru and make disparaging remarks about African-American girls. At least one of the boys is wearing a sweatshirt from Homewood-Flossmoor High School, where they have since been confirmed to attend. On Sunday, a former student of the school, Khy Lael Sline, reposted the content to her Facebook page, where she garnered the attention of more than 1,000 people — including the Illinois school district.

In a letter sent out to families that same day, District 233 superintendent Von Mansfield and Homewood-Flossmoor High School principal Jerry Anderson denounced the “highly offensive and culturally insensitive” posts.

“The social media postings that were seen and heard were not representative of the high expectations we have for all students that attend our school,” the statement obtained by Yahoo Lifestyle reads. “This type of behavior is contrary to our expectations, is being addressed quickly and appropriately and will not be tolerated.”

However, while the school couldn’t comment on disciplinary action as a result of student confidentiality laws, some claim that the school hasn’t implemented any. Instead, the students at the center of the controversy allegedly attended class on Monday and were even given an early dismissal to ensure their own safety. School administrators met with the students involved, along with their parents, according to ABC 7, but the school didn’t elaborate on if or how the students were punished.

In an effort to urge administrators to take further action against the racist display, nearly 1,000 students participated in a walkout on Tuesday afternoon, where they chanted their demands for justice. Administrators sent out an additional letter addressing their knowledge of the protest and their support.

The president and vice president of the district’s board of education sent out their own letter following the walkout, where they condemned the students’ actions while acknowledging the “speedy response” from Homewood-Flossmoor administrators, who are said to be conducting an investigation. The board also detailed their own plan of action.

“The District 233 Board of Education will be revisiting and moving forward with the diversity and inclusion aspects of our new strategic plan, as they relate to cultural awareness and cultural competency training,” the letter reads. “Homewood-Flossmoor High School will continue to stand against racism, and against insensitive and disrespectful behavior of any kind, and will take the appropriate and necessary actions to ensure that all students are respected, that our differences are embraced and that our unity is celebrated.”

Homewood’s mayor, Rich Hofeld, and Flossmoor’s mayor, Paul Braun, also addressed the offensive incident with a joint statement on Monday.

“No matter the age or the action of the person, hurtful and offensive behavior is neither accepted nor condoned,” the statement reads. “Our diversity is a fundamental value that should be fully embraced, respected, and at the forefront of our community.”

The students involved in the incident have yet to be identified. However, on Tuesday, Mansfield and Anderson sent out a third letter to the school community, where they addressed students’ frustration and ensured that they are doing “everything possible to ensure that these students understand the ramifications of their actions and that appropriate consequences are received.”

The letter continued: “The poor decisions of a small group of students have created enormous upheaval and hurt within our school and community. These actions have touched each of us deeply, and we will continue to work together in order to begin the process of healing as a school and community. We would like to applaud our students and staff members who participated [in the walkout].”

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