Education

Apex Friendship High student ‘disciplined’ after comparing step team to freed slaves

A student at Apex Friendship High School was disciplined for sending a “highly offensive racial remark” on the social media platform Snapchat, according to the Wake County school system.

A black-and-white photo was taken from the bleachers of the gymnasium during a Friday pep rally while the school’s step team performed. The caption on the photo said, “Plantation owner watches his former slaves rejoice and celebrate their newfound freedom Circa 1864.”

The step team members in the photo are African-American. The image was deleted shortly after it was posted to friends in the Snapchat app.

Matt Wight, the school’s principal, sent a voicemail message to parents Monday telling them how Apex Friendship responded.

“The administration investigated the situation and identified the student, who is being disciplined in accordance with WCPSS guidelines,” Wight said. “I met with the Step Team today and reassured them that this type of behavior would not be tolerated.”

Wight told parents he made a schoolwide announcement reiterating that students sharing inappropriate content on social media will be held accountable. He also said that the school is working to address the issue in a positive, constructive way to improve relations with all students.

Federal privacy laws prohibit Wake from saying what specific action was taken against the student, according to schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten.

The school’s dance team posted on Twitter on Monday a photo of members holding up a poster covered in words of encouragement for the team.

Friday’s post is one of several racially charged viral videos and posts that Wake has struggled with recently.

In March, two videos surfaced showing racial harassment, including one with three students from Leesville Road Middle, who’ve since been disciplined by the school, making derogatory comments and chanting “KKK.”

Luten said that while social media have made incidents of racial insensitivity more prominent, the problem has been an ongoing issue for the district, which it is actively trying to solve.

In 2013, Wake hired Rodney Trice to lead the Office of Equity Affairs, which helps ensure that equity, diversity and cultural competency are part of the district’s strategic planning and collective dialogue, according to the district’s website. This year, it plans to add a new position – director of equitable discipline practices. The job will be to monitor fairness, equity and consistency of student suspension recommendations.

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