Edina High School authorities said Friday they’re investigating a racist photo and message shared through social media by a student earlier this week.
Edina High Principal Bruce Locklear sent a letter to students and parents Thursday, describing the photo as “racially charged” and as having “disrespectful language.”
“Several students who saw the post were deeply offended and concerned about how the post could spark other actions in our school,” the principal wrote in his letter, obtained by the Star Tribune.
In an interview Friday, Locklear said he couldn’t share whether or how the student was disciplined, though he said the school followed district policy. He said the school would take concrete steps to address racism and hateful speech as early as next week.
“Our students of color are the victims here. They are not the students that need to concentrate on changing their behavior,” he said. “What we need to do is change the understanding of our white students.”
The photo was shared through Snapchat, a phone app that deletes pictures or videos after they are viewed. It shows a student’s face with a white robe and hood drawn around him, the letters “K.K.K.” scrawled on the hood and a racial epithet written in text.
A student took a photo of the photo as it appeared on a cellphone, which began circulating around the school Wednesday and was then shared dozens of times online through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Guled Said, an Edina senior, said he was one of the students who went to Locklear to show him the photo.
“It was deeply saddening,” Locklear said. “We just hope that we are beyond this as a country in 2016.”
Edina High’s student population is about 79 percent white, 9 percent Asian, 7 percent black and 4 percent Hispanic, according to the Minnesota Report Card. The school’s Black Student Union has about 50 members.
“People were feeling very mad, confused, a lot of people were stressed out,” said Said, vice president of the student union. “I think [Locklear] handled the situation well, but I feel there is more to be done.”
Some classes, including Said’s, discussed the incident this week. “It caused a lot of students to step up and lead,” he said. “Like it or not, we’re going to have these problems in public schools.”
Said and Reggie Agyen-Boateng, another senior and student union member, said they have seen other racist messages shared by students as recently as this week.
“Things like this are why the Black Student Union exists,” Agyen-Boateng said. “I believe we can make a change, but it’s going to take forever.”
Locklear and other teachers met with student union members and talked with other students. In his letter, Locklear said he wanted to use the incident as a learning opportunity.
“We are committed to ensuring that all members of the student body and community are safe in our school,” he wrote. “Having authentic conversations about race and culture with students and with each other is how we all learn to thrive in a global society.”
Agyen-Boateng said he sees or hears hateful comments all too often.
“I felt angry and sad because this has been going on for so long,” Agyen-Boateng said. “I just feel so sad about how cruel the world is right now.”