A group of Illinois students sparked outrage from parents and classmates after they posted blackface photos and a video of themselves making derogatory comments about black girls and harassing workers at a McDonald's drive-through, WLS-TV reported.
The video posted Sunday featured four white males riding in a car with black paint smeared on their faces. The teenagers attend Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School near Chicago.
Some students planned a walkout, dubbed "boycott against racism," over the incident. Nearly 70 percent of the school's population is black.
What did school administrators say?
School administrators issued a statement ensuring parents and students that it was handling the situation with those involved.
"The administration immediately requested a meeting that afternoon [Sunday] and met with all of the families and students involved. Due to student confidentiality laws, we are unable to discuss individual students and actions taken," school officials wrote, WLS reported.
"Though this behavior occurred outside the school setting, this type of behavior is contrary to our expectations, is being addressed quickly and appropriately and will not be tolerated," the statement continued.
Privacy laws prevent the school from releasing the names of the students involved or discussing punishment.
On Tuesday morning, administrators sent another letter to parents that guaranteed their support for students who planned to participate in the walkout, according to WLS:
We have been made aware that some of our students may participate in a walkout some time today to express their frustration with the social media posts and actions of a few students this past weekend. We support their right to express themselves, and we will work to ensure that all students are safe and respected.
We will be working in cooperation with the Flossmoor Police Department. Our administrators addressed all students via the school TV news channel this morning, sharing with them the importance of their voice, participation and plan to move forward as a school and community.
We will be having a school-wide conversation with all students during English classes tomorrow, when the principal and superintendent will join in an interactive discussion with the student body. During the walkout today, access to the campus will be closed. Students may choose to participate in the walkout or choose to stay in classes and continue to process with their peers and teachers. Students are being asked to stay on campus for their safety.
What did parents say?
Some parents hope the situation can start a conversation regarding racial issues.
"I know these kids, I know these parents, these are my daughter's classmates, this is going to cause more tension to an already tension-riddled community," parent Nicole Brookens told WLS. "I hope that I can do something to help this conversation get started."
But others want the students kicked out of the school.
"I would like to see the students expelled. I would like to see some cultural sensitivity training. It should have been done proactively but now that we're dealing with it — let's face it head-on," Dr. La-Shawn Latrice, whose child attends the high school, told WMAQ-TV.
Still, some including former student Janet Lawrence, whose children and grandchildren also attended the school, were surprised by the whole incident.
"I've never seen anything like this before in our community, so I don't know, these are a couple of kids, I don't know who they are," Lawrence said. "They are not responsible for the rest of us. They are only responsible for themselves."
What about the parents of the students who were involved?
A mother of one the boys involved told the Patch that the teens didn't understand the meaning of blackface until after the fact.
"This is a very serious thing," she said. "As crazy as it sounds, it is not about race. We are not racist. The students didn't even know what 'blackface' meant until they Googled it later. It was a complete dumb and childish act."
The woman, who asked for anonymity, said her family has received death threats since the story broke.