Hate has no place in Saline Area Schools, Superintendent Scot Graden said in a statement released on the district’s website Monday night.
Graden’s statement came hours after district officials learned of a series of racist comments made on the Snapchat social media app recently.
“Administrators at Saline High School conducted a thorough investigation of the situation and determined that the incident represents an act of racism that created harm to all of our students, especially students of color,” Graden wrote. “Hate, prejudice, and racism have no place in our schools or our community. Our school and our district find the words used in these posts to be deplorable and we strongly denounce the actions and words of these students.”
Graden said the board of education and administration are striving to ensure an inclusive and safe environment for all students and, therefore, “take these issues seriously.”
A Saline High School student contacted The Saline Post Monday afternoon and reported that he and other students of color were added into a Snapchat group chat filled with racist slurs and images posted by fellow students.
“This was an extremely hurtful experience and I think more people need to hear about this,” said the student in an email.
The Saline Post viewed a screen-capture video of a scroll through the chat. The video contained racial slurs and spoke of “white power” and the rising of “The South.” Most of the comments made in the video were attributed to white students known to participate in Saline athletics. As the comments were made, the Snapchat story showed other students, including several African American students, leaving the chat. Some of the comments appeared to target specific students of color - including teammates of the students making the comments.
Parents who saw the video were shocked by its content.
“As a mom with three bi-racial kids, I am sickened by this,” Gina Harrison said in Saline Posts, a Facebook group dedicated to happenings in the Saline community.
Harrison invited parents to discuss racism with their children.
“It gets better if we openly discuss it with our kids,” Harrison said.
Heidi McClelland said she was disgusted by the Snapchat, but pleased by the way she saw students responding.
“Luckily, it seems that most of the student body is pushing back with positive things and support. That makes me glad to hear that the majority of kids understand that this is unacceptable,” McClelland said. “Kids knowing right from wrong and holding their peers accountable is how this changes.”
The district did not outline how the offending students were disciplined. Graden said the district uses a process called “restorative practices,” which includes discipline for breaking school rules, working with those who created the harm, and those who were harmed.
Graden said the district’s staff will work to provide schools void of racist words and actions. For parents who wanted information about how to speak with their children about issues of race, he recommended reading Beyond the Golden Rule.
Issues around race and diversity have challenged Saline Area Schools. According to publicschoolreview.com, minority enrollment is 11 percent at Saline High School - far less than the state average of 34 percent. There are 4,537 white students in the school district and just 80 black students - about 2 percent of the student population.
Saline’s “white” image played a role in 2017 when Pioneer students chanted “Saline is racist” at a football game after seeing a Saline freshman homecoming float and perceiving it was a depiction of a black person being lynched.
But the current issue isn’t about a misperception or students from another school extrapolating from a community’s reputation. In this case, the reality is that white students invited black students into a social media group and then assaulted them with racial insults and hate speech.
Below is the full statement from Graden.
January 27, 2020
Dear Saline Area Schools Community,
On Monday, January 27th it was brought to the attention of our staff and administration that offensive and inappropriate racist comments using derogatory terms about African Americans were posted on social media by Saline High School students. Administrators at Saline High School conducted a thorough investigation of the situation and determined that the incident represents an act of racism that created harm to all of our students, especially students of color. Hate, prejudice, and racism have no place in our schools or our community.
Our School and our District find the words used in these posts to be deplorable and we strongly denounce the actions and words of these students. The Saline Board of Education and administration take these issues seriously as we strive to ensure a welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment for all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other identity. This is an opportunity for us - the staff, students, and community of Saline Area Schools - to stand for anti-racism, respect, and inclusion of all students.
In addition, we recognize that harm has been done to students of color in Saline who saw the post. Additional efforts must be made to repair the damage from this situation. Saline Area Schools, along with many districts across the nation, use a process known as restorative practices (or restorative justice), where in conjunction with clear discipline for infraction of school rules, we work with those who created the harm as well as those who were harmed to repair the damage.
Saline Area Schools is committed to creating and sustaining a culturally proficient and inclusive learning environment where EVERY member of the community is valued and respected. In addition to the above noted measures, our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee will continue to work on methods to help educate all students and staff regarding the ways that language and behavior can harm groups of people who have been historically marginalized.
The District will continue working to ensure that our schools provide a safe and inviting environment void of these types of despicable words and actions. Our staff will work diligently to ensure that this is the case for ALL of our students. For information about how to talk to your child(ren) about issues of race follow this link - http://bit.ly/BeyondGoldenRule
Saline Area Schools