A local NAACP leader has requested an immediate meeting with officials of a Connecticut school district after two high school students were seen on social media in what appeared to be blackface.
Greater Hartford NAACP President Maxien Robinson-Lewin said Wednesday that she and Simsbury officials were deciding on a date for the meeting.
Robinson-Lewin said a screenshot of a Snapchat video of the Simsbury High School students circulated on social media last weekend. She said she learned from some parents that the students received one-day, in-school suspensions, and she told school officials the punishment was not severe enough.
“Black Face in any manner is always deemed as racist and we will not stand for such behavior,” Robinson-Lewin wrote Monday in a letter to school officials. “The lack of disciplinary action … does not match the severity of the situation as viewed by the NAACP and the community.”
Messages were left Wednesday for School Superintendent Matthew Curtis and high school Principal Andrew O’Brien.
In a letter to parents, O’Brien said the two girls were home playing “make-up” with two boys, and the boys applied multiple colors to the girls’ faces. He said the girls shared their experience online and quickly received feedback that the image was offensive. They immediately removed the image and posted an apology saying they didn’t realize they could have offended anyone, O’Brien said.
“The girls consulted with a parent who explained that their post resembled racially motivated “black face” images and should be taken down immediately,” O’Brien wrote. “In conversations with the girls and their parents we explained that images such as this are offensive and have no place in our school community.”
O’Brien wrote the girls were disciplined and assigned to counseling sessions for racial sensitivity.
Robinson-Lewin said she was concerned school officials were minimizing what the students did.
Curtis called the image “offensive and hurtful” in his own letter to parents.
“Despite ongoing efforts within our schools to enhance educational opportunities for staff and students regarding diversity, there is clearly more work to be done,” Curtis wrote. “This recent incident highlights the need to make our learning more widespread and engaging. As a school system, we are committed to embracing this work in a more collaborative and inclusive way.”
Scot Esdaile, president of the statewide NAACP chapter, denounced the incident and said it was part of increasing racism fueled by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
“There’s a climate in the state of Connecticut and all throughout this nation where racism is running rampant,” he said. “It’s very important that the NAACP pushes back and fights against these racists.”