Over the last week, Brooklyn private school Poly Prep has faced public criticism for allegedly fostering a "trend of hatred" after a video circulated online showing two female students wearing blackface while grunting and making ape gestures. Two of the students behind the video have now left the school.
A spokesperson for the school previously told Gothamist that one of the girls seen wearing blackface has since transferred, while the other girl, as well as the person who filmed the video, were currently enrolled as freshman at Poly Prep High School in Dyker Heights. Now, those other two teens are gone as well: both girls are "'not at Poly anymore’ according to our principal," junior Austin Somers told the Daily News. "I think this is a huge issue, but I’m glad they’re taking steps."
While officials at Poly Prep wouldn't comment on the departure, citing confidentiality rules, a source told the News that the girls’ families and school administrators agreed the students would withdraw. At least one did so voluntarily: "We withdrew our daughter from Poly Prep yesterday," the mother of one of the girls said. That girl's father added that the video was actually made years ago when she was 12 (the video is said to be about two years old), and argued it wasn’t racially motivated. "By calling it a ‘blackface’ video you’re saying that you understand the motivation and intent of my daughter when she was 12 years old," he said. (The mother of one of the girls' added to the Times that the young girls were just "playing with makeup.")
One of the girls posted an apology to Instagram:
One of the girls featured in the Poly Prep blackface video has posted an apology on Instagram, saying she didn't know what blackface was when video was made. https://t.co/sOsvM81bY8 pic.twitter.com/LbZ3Yabqwc
— Eliza Shapiro (@elizashapiro) January 22, 2019
The video was first posted on a student website by a freshman on January 11th, and soon began spreading among upperclassmen until it was eventually picked up by news outlets last week. The administration initially responded to the video by noting that its distribution was in violation of the school's code of conduct.
Students walked out of class last Friday, alleging that administrators have not adequately addressed the racist incident. "Left to experience our peers’ continued disregard of our humanity, students of color question why our administration fails to take a clear stance against their behavior," seniors Jeovanna deShong-Connor and Talisha Ward said at the demonstration.
"We do not tolerate racism or prejudice in our school or in our communities,” the school said in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday. "We took immediate action as soon as we learned of a highly offensive video, taken years ago, being circulated on our campus. It was an egregious violation of our community values and code of conduct."
City officials including City Council Member Jumaane Williams and Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the incident as well:
Poly Prep has some real explaining to do. And what’s absolutely clear is that a conversation about racism at the school is long overdue. https://t.co/lcpBNHoMwN
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) January 20, 2019