What to Know
- A picture of a high school student in blackface has caused an uproar in a New Jersey town
- The controversial photo shows the student standing in front of a Confederate flag while donning the offensive face paint
- Police said the student involved never intended for the photo to go viral and understands what he did was wrong
A picture of a high school student in blackface has caused an uproar in a New Jersey town, and led parents to question if it was safe to send their children to school.
The controversial photo shows the Scotch Plains Fanwood High School student standing in front of a Confederate flag while donning the offensive face paint, with the caption “gotta love spf.”
The picture rapidly made its rounds on social media over the past weekend, and rumors quickly spread that it may be some kind of threat — enough so that parents considered not sending their children to school.
“It kind of spiraled,” said parent Laura Vacca. “Social media took it to a new level and everyone freaked out.”
Police soon got involved and determined there was no threat, with children attending the school without incident all week. However, many at the school were shocked and disturbed that someone they might know would post something so blatantly racist.
“We don’t want that to be our image, because who does? That’s horrible,” said 16-year-old student Liam Schetelich.
“They need to actually fix everything that’s going on. Because obviously a lot of students are upset about this,” said April Walsh, another student at the school. “A lot of students don’t want this happening.”
Some of the angry students attended a board of education meeting at the school Thursday night, speaking up and forcing the members to address the situation.
“Everything is terrible right now for our school, students of the black union deserve better,” said Walsh.
This is not the first time the school has had to deal with racist incidents. Last year, the building was graffitied with racial slurs, and one of the girls who attended the board of education meeting said she has been called the N-word multiple times, claiming the school has done nothing to punish the offenders.
The school is not releasing the name of the student seen in the photo, citing privacy concerns. Police said the student involved never intended for the photo to go viral, and only shared it with close friends. He understands what he did was wrong, police said, but some were left wondering if any disciplinary actions would be taken.
“They are not taking care of it... they are not doing anything to show action. They need to show action and action matters. Not words, not a letter,” said Walsh.
The superintendent says the district is addressing what happened, writing in a letter to parents that they have been reminded “how the hateful voices of a few can hurt so many.”
The board of education reassured parents and students that even though no action has been taken against the student, the school district remains committed to combating hate speech.
The incident comes just a week after a similar controversy at nearby Watchung Regional High School, where a student dressed up as a slave and other as a slave owner for an off-campus Halloween party.