A week after two senior boys were spotted carrying a Confederate flag to a school event, a Long Island Catholic school has ended up expelling four students. St. Anthony's High School, in South Huntington, explained that in addition to the two seniors, two sophomore girls were kicked out because "one of them in blackface and the racially inflammatory language."
The school said that when the boys were spotted with the flag at an intramural European handball event on Wednesday, April 9, the flag was taken away and the boys were told to leave the property. Principal Brother Gary Cregan said, "The African-American students who immediately saw it really exercised heroic restraint, and fortunately a teacher immediately confiscated the flag and took the students out of the gym." The game apparently had one team of primarily white students while the other team had mostly black students.
According to the Newsday, the school has 2,450 students: "Cregan said about 1,800 of its students are white, 138 black, 215 of Asian ethnicity, about 200 of Hispanic ethnicity, six American Indian and about four of Pacific Island ethnicity. Another 46 are of mixed race, he said." He said, "I find it just very hard to even imagine why any student in 2014 would even consider or think that a Confederate flag would be anything other than a symbol of hate."
Initially, the two boys were suspended and Cregan sent a letter to parents on Friday, saying, "The use of any symbol, either historic or current, which carries a meaning designed to revive past injustices or to inflame discrimination or racial intolerance, is completely unacceptable and profoundly offensive... As a Catholic and Franciscan school, Saint Anthony's will always demand acceptance and respect for all races, religions and cultures."
But then the two sophomore girls apparently posted the blackface photo and used racially offensive language online, which violates the school's handbook. According to the St. Anthony's statement (PDF), "Two other students blatantly disregarded the principal’s request to discontinue the use of social media to inflame discrimination in the school community by displaying an inappropriate picture and comment. These students have been appropriately acted upon."
Cregan decided to expel the students because things were getting very uncomfortable at the school. He told Newsday, "I had hoped, perhaps naively, that we would be able at a given point to reasonably sit down, but the emotions are still very high. You can feel the mood in the building. The mood is not a pleasant mood. It's a tense mood."
Students were shocked that their classmates were so stupid. One told WCBS 2, "It’s absolutely absurd. I don’t understand why you would bring up things from the past that are hateful," while another said, "It represents slavery to us. It represents racism and prejudice to us. Believe me, I am all for freedom of speech but to have someone come in to school with that flag draped around their shoulder — I’m not really sure what the intent was."
Recently, a NJ student was suspended from his high school for flying a Confederate flag on his truck; the ACLU sided with him, saying the student had the right to speech unless the school could prove "that the prohibited speech would ‘materially and substantially’ disrupt the operation of the school or interfere with another’s rights."