Homewood-Flossmoor HS students walk out of class after blackface photo, video

Diane Pathieu Image
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Homewood-Flossmoor HS students walk out of class after blackface photo, video
Homewood-Flossmoor High School students protested after a photo and video surfaced of classmates wearing blackface and making disparaging comments about African American girls.

FLOSSMOOR, Ill. (WLS) -- Students walked out of class at Homewood Flossmoor High School Tuesday after a social media post showing students in blackface has sparked outrage.

Around noon, about 1,000 kids spilled onto Kedzie Avenue demanding justice as they squeezed around police officers who were supposed to keep the students from leaving school grounds.

"It's quite a big turnout," said Kaila Chambliss. "I'm very happy with the results because this is something that systematically is happening in America now and we need to see change take place."

Students staged the protest after four sophomore boys posted a picture of themselves wearing blackface on social media. Their post also included a video of one of the teens making disparaging remarks about African American women. The behavior took place over the weekend, off school property.

WATCH: Homewood-Flossmoor students in blackface spark outrage

A video shows Homewood-Flossmoor High School teens going through a fast-food drive-thru with black smeared on their face while making disparaging remarks about African American gir

"The administration is honestly making it to be not a big thing and it really is," student Karina Duncan said.

While privacy laws prohibit the school from discussing punishment, students of all races are convinced not enough is being done to the teens involved and not enough instruction on black history.

"All our history classes we learn about wars, fights all these other things, but we never get deep into black history," student Colin Gates said.

"I think they should put that in the curriculum of having an African American history class," another student, Jack Schmiz, echoed.

While the walkout out lasted several minutes, most students returned to class. A few dozen stayed out and formed a circle at the intersection of Kedzie and Flossmoor.

Students are plannning a walkout at Homewood Flossmoor High School after a social media post showing students in blackface has sparked outrage.

The administration has sent out several letters to parents and students, in as well as a videotape message from the superintendent and principal.

"We want you to know what happened this weekend is taking very seriously by the administration," Dr. Jerry Lee Anderson said in the message.

School administrators met with the students involved and their parents. ABC7 has been told the incident happened outside of the school, and will not be tolerated by school leaders. The school did not say how or if the students were punished.

For Janet Lawrence, who not only went to this high school herself, but her children and grandchildren too, she hopes the action of some doesn't speak for all.

"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," she said. "They are not responsible for the rest of us. They are only responsible for themselves."

READ: Board of Education letter

READ: Letter to parents, 4/28/19

READ: Letter to parents, 4/30/19

In a letter to parents, Homewood-Flossmoor High School's principal and superintendent said access to the campus will be closed during the walkout.

The letter said, "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. If you need to pick up your student, please contact the Deans' Office and follow normal procedures for sign out. We will be shuttling those students to Calvary Church (18620 Governors Highway) for parent pick up. Student drivers who need to leave campus should exit the campus via the access road and exit on Governors Highway."

"Later today, we will reach out again to our school community and provide additional information related to our continued efforts to move forward together."

WATCH: Video message from Homewood-Flossmoor HS principal and district superintendent

In a joint statement, Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld and Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun said: "In light of the highly offensive incident that unfolded over the weekend, the Village of Homewood and the Village of Flossmoor have come together to show solidarity in our condemnation of this type of behavior. No matter the age or the action of the person, hurtful and offensive behavior is neither accepted nor condoned. As Mayors, we know Homewood and Flossmoor take pride in our diversity and inclusion of all people, and the actions of these individuals do not reflect the values we have worked to establish. Our diversity is a fundamental value that should be fully embraced, respected, and at the forefront of our community. Together, and along with other community partners, Homewood and Flossmoor will continue to reflect the true spirit and heart of our communities. We will be working collaboratively with our community partners to address this repugnant behavior, together."