Philadelphia high school students disciplined after video shows one using black spray paint on another’s face while saying racist comments
By Sharif Paget and Caroll Alvarado, CNN
At least two Philadelphia high school students are facing disciplinary action after a racist video recorded outside of school surfaced on social media showing one girl spraying black paint on another girl’s face as they made racist comments a week into Black History Month.
Two of the girls in the video that began circulating online on Tuesday attend Saint Hubert Catholic High School for Girls, according to Kenneth A. Gavin, the chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. A third girl in the video is not a student there, he said.
“We will not disclose finite details of individual disciplinary actions but the level of behavior calls for a minimum of suspension and counseling and a maximum of expulsion,” Gavin told CNN in an email Wednesday.
In a statement released Wednesday, Franklin Towne Charter High School said the former student who participated in the video or any other students who exhibit such conduct “have no place at our school.”
“The content of this video does not reflect the values and culture of our Towne family,” the school said on it website. It’s unclear whether the former student was enrolled at the time of the video recording.
A Black parent whose daughter attends the Catholic school told CNN the video was sent directly to his daughter and niece as well as other Black students.
When asked whether the video was initially sent to Black students at the school, Gavin told CNN, “At this time it is unknown as to the exact distribution. My understanding is that it was posted and shared on social media.”
Saint Hubert Catholic High School serves roughly 500 students grades 9 through 12 while nearly 1,300 students attend Franklin Towne Charter High School, their respective data shows. Both schools are majority white, the data shows.
Video draws protest
The video began circulating on social media a week into Black History Month.
In the video, a girl is seen using black spray paint to color the face of another girl as she says, “You’re a Black girl! You know your roots! It’s February! You’re nothing but a slave… and after this she’s doing my laundry.”
People in the video can be heard laughing as this occurs. One person is seen filming the incident on her phone. The girl who had her face painted black says, “I’m Black and I’m proud.”
The video was taken outside of school and after school hours, a Wednesday statement provided to CNN by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said.
“We recognize and understand that the actions of these students have reopened societal wounds in a deeply painful way. Those allegedly responsible are not present in school and are being disciplined appropriately,” the archdiocese said.
The archdiocese added the school and the Office of Catholic Education are conducting a review into the incident. “Should that process determine involvement by any other students, they will also face disciplinary action,” the statement said.
Footage shot by CNN affiliate KYW showed parents and activists protesting outside Saint Hubert Catholic High School for Girls on Wednesday holding signs that read, “No More Racism” and “Hate Hurts.”
Nelson J. Perez, the archbishop of Philadelphia, expressed “shock and deep disappointment” in a letter sent to the school’s community on Friday. He said those responsible for the racially charged video “will face severe disciplinary consequences.”
“The recent actions of a few have ripped open deep wounds in your school and our community-at-large. I know in my heart that what recently took place does not represent who you are or what you stand for,” he added.
Catherine Hicks, president of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP, expressed in a statement Wednesday her strong disappointment in the video and called on the school to “ensure action takes place immediately.”
“It is extremely disheartening to have to address this, especially during the observance of Black History Month, that honors the accomplishments and rich history of black people,” the statement said.
“The video showing the egregious acts of Philadelphia Archdiocese white female students spray painting a young lady’s face black is totally unacceptable,” the statement continued. To say the act was done in jest “is not only appalling but shows us the continued cycle of racism that we are constantly fighting against.”
In its statement, the archdiocese said: “We take this opportunity to be abundantly clear that there is no place for hate, racism, or bigotry at Saint Hubert’s or in any Catholic school. It is not acceptable under any circumstances or at any time. The use of any racial epithet is inconsistent with our values to treat all people with charity, decency, and respect.”
The archdiocese noted that the students’ behavior violates the code of conduct and the policy on technology use, which applies to students inside and outside the school.
According to the statement, general threats were made Tuesday afternoon against the school community after the video surfaced on social media.
The threats were reported to law enforcement, and no extracurricular activities will be held at the school for the remainder of the week, according to the statement.
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CNN’s Jesscia Prater contributed to this report.