A Pennsylvania high school student has been suspended for nine days after posting a photo online of himself in front of a Confederate flag with the caption, "They should all hang," KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh reported.
The 17-year-old special-ed junior attends Bethel Park High School where racial tensions have been on the rise, according to WPXI-TV.
The white student, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, told KDKA he posted the photo to Snapchat just after black students confronted him following classes last Wednesday. He also told the station that a girl in the group punched him three times.
The incident took place after a "racial bullying meeting" at Bethel Park, local outlet the Almanac reported. The meeting was akin to a "pep rally," the suspended teen's lawyer said. WPXI reported that a meeting at the school took place last week involving the school nurse, several black students and the school superintendent over an "ugly" incident, though it's unclear if it was the same "racial bullying meeting."
The suspended teen told KDKA he doesn't know why he was targeted in the alleged punching incident but said his "they should all hang" photo caption wasn't directed to a person — he said he meant it in reference to Confederate flags in general.
“I never meant that to be racist or anything," the student told KDKA. "I never meant for anyone to hang."
His dad is backing him up.
“Kids are nowadays listening to a lot of country music and kind of acting like rednecks and stuff like that,” Joseph Pusateri told KDKA. “And you know, they’re basically singling my son out as a racist based on a photograph."
The family's lawyer, Karen Urbanik-Gangine, told the Almanac that legal action is a possibility, adding that she and the family are "being stonewalled" regarding a surveillance video of the alleged altercation between her client and the group of students.
"We’ve asked to see that as well as schedule a meeting, required by federal law, to evaluate the punishment given to a student with special education needs," Urbanik-Gangine said. A meeting is scheduled for Friday.
A school district spokeswoman said school officials are prohibited by law from discussing any matter involving student discipline, the Almanac reported. It's not clear if the female student who allegedly punched the suspended teen has been disciplined.