Updated 8:50 pm
Students at south suburban Homewood-Flossmoor High School protested outside of the racially integrated school Tuesday afternoon. They said administrators mishandled a racist incident.
Four white students recently posted a video on social media of themselves in blackface while making disparaging comments while off campus, according to students and parents who watched the video. The video was brought to the school’s attention over the weekend, and administrators met with the students and their families Sunday afternoon.
A letter from school administrators also was sent to parents outlining the incident. The administrators refused to say what actions were taken against the students in the video, citing student confidentiality laws.
That didn’t sit well with students. Around noon on Tuesday, about 1,000 students marched down Kedzie Avenue in Flossmoor outside the school. The district had closed the campus to parents and visitors Tuesday morning ahead of the planned student walkout.
Homewood-Flossmoor High School has a majority black student body and about 19% of its students are white. Most of the teaching staff is white, but the principal and superintendent are black. A number of parents who showed up at the school to support the students said they were disappointed with how the situation was being handled.
Parent La’Shawn Littrice said the four boys accused of wearing blackface were being escorted to class with security. But school administrators dispute that, saying the boys were not in school and were not being escorted to class.
Students and parents are calling for the four boys to be expelled. Littrice said there’s been a disparity in how students of color have been disciplined at the school.
“There needs to be something done as far as cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity,” she said. “You have white students who say they don’t know what blackface is.”
In a statement, the school district said it does not stand for racism and understands the hurt the video caused. The school is planning for a schoolwide discussion on Wednesday.
“We want you to share your thoughts. We want to hear from you, and we also would like the opportunity to clear up some misconceptions as we can,” Principal Jerry Lee Anderson said in a video message to students.
The district said as part of its strategic plan, it’s developing diversity and cultural competency training for all staff members and students.
Susie An covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @soosieon.
This story was updated to add a response from Homewood-Flossmoor administrators.