Local News

Parents Sue St. Francis High School over Blackface Scandal

by Georgia Kaufman and Jenna Roselli

Humor Editor and Center Editor

The parents of two 14-year-olds accused of dressing in blackface have sued Saint Francis High School (SFHS) for over 20 million dollars. They claim that the school’s allegations regarding the case are a misunderstanding of “a photograph from [an] innocent event.” The lawsuit arose because the two students faced either immediate expulsion or the choice to leave the school themselves after the administration discovered the photo.

The photo from Aug. 17, 2017, depicts three boys, two of whom were the aforementioned SFHS students, in a bathroom with a dark green facemask on their faces. The case states the names of the two students by their initials, A.H. and H.H., and refers to the other boy as Minor III. Allegedly, the parents of A.H., Bruce H. and Tanya H., had bought their child an acne face mask because he had experienced teenage breakouts. Minor III sent the photo to a friend, who then proceeded to screenshot it and display it as a Spotify playlist cover. According to the lawsuit, A.H. and H.H. were unaware that the photo was shared online.

The case began in Aug. 2020 after complaints due to racist actions allegedly committed by SFHS alums. A group of Saint Francis graduates who owned a meme Instagram account made fun of the death of George Floyd in a post from mid June. People began to call out the high school for its racism following the exposure; that led to the picture of the boys resurfacing. However, the lawsuit claims the boys’ actions were unrelated to other racist instances. 

The story recently made national headlines, appearing on Snapchat’s news highlights through outlets like NBC News and The Daily Mail.

In the lawsuit, the students’ parents argued that the photo, “had absolutely nothing to do with these horrible acts of racism.” In an interview with the SF Chronicle, Krista Baughman, the boys’ attorney, explained that the school administration informed H.H. and A.H that they were no longer allowed to attend SFHS only four business hours after it first contacted their families about the photo. The school sent the parents of H.H. and A.H. a reimbursement check dated Jun. 6 for their sons’ tuition 13 days before the families signed voluntary withdrawal paperwork.

The lawsuit states: “At no time did the boys engage in ‘blackface,’ nor did they intend to do so or mimic doing so. Neither A.H. nor H.H. had even been aware of the term ‘blackface,’ let alone what it meant or signified.” Although the boys claim they truly did not know what they were doing, some find fault with Saint Francis for not educating their students. 

In an email to a concerned parent regarding the racist incident at SFHS, Assistant Principal Meighan Friedsam stated, “We have been thorough in our investigation, we have issued extremely serious consequences, and we continue to communicate with our students that racist behavior is unacceptable.” The lawsuit filed by H.H.’s and A.H.’s parents claims otherwise, stating that the school failed to investigate the situation comprehensively. The lawsuit raises questions if the school was negligent in their decision-making in an attempt to hurriedly appear to be fighting racism instead of striving to find the truth. 

(Sources: NBC News, Mercury News, SF Gate, SF Chronicle)

Photo courtesy SFHS.com

Categories: Local News, News

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