Panio Law LB October 2018

The rains broke long enough for about 1,000 Homewood-Flossmoor High School students to march in protest outside the school campus around noon Tuesday, to make their voices heard about a recent incident that has inflamed the community.

  Homewood-Flossmoor High
  School students walked around
  the school campus holding
  signs and chanting.

  (Mary Compton/H-F Chronicle)

Students aimed to let administrators and the community know that they are concerned about how they and their high school are being presented to those outside the close-knit H-F community.

The walkout followed the actions of four white students who on Saturday drove around wearing black face paint and posting their exploits, which included making insulting remarks to a black woman working at a McDonald’s, to social media.
The male students were not on campus during the incident and not affiliated with any school event, but because two of the boys were seen wearing red H-F Vikings sweatshirts in the video, the high school has become associated with their actions. 
By Sunday, the post went viral and administrators stepped in. They met with the students and their parents about the incident. Disciplinary action is being taken, said Superintendent Von Mansfield, although he could not disclose details due to privacy rules.
The four have not returned to campus.
When students called for a walkout, senior Sydney Doss said administrators “supported us going out and exercising our right to speak our voices.” 
Media swarmed around the high school as the students walked out the South Building’s front door and spilled onto Kedzie Avenue, closed down by police. They marched to Flossmoor Road and then congregated in front of the CVS pharmacy where several adults made comments about the effects of racism. After about 30 minutes, the students went back to class.
The Chronicle talked to a number of students and parents at Tuesday’s march. 
“I understand kids will be kids,” said H-F parent Annette Johnson, of Chicago Heights. “I saw the video and shook my head, and then saw what I call a fake apology. Don’t tell me you didn’t know (blackface) had a racial context to it.”
Students said they weren’t sure if the blackface actions were done as a joke, out of ignorance or stupidity, but they were upset. Parents and students said they expect disciplinary actions to be taken, although several said they didn’t think the four boys should be expelled from school.
Redan Jackson, a senior, recalled how African-American students were reprimanded earlier in the year for social media postings. She wanted to know the four will be held to account in a similar way. 
At school on Monday administrators and teachers allowed students to discuss the situation.
“Everyone’s heart was really heavy,” said senior Ashley Schaller, of Homewood. “We’re all talking about it in classes. It was really sad. Obviously it’s really pathetic.” 
Schaller said students were confused by the actions. “It’s so weird. It’s amazing to grow up in a community like this and still be so ignorant,” she added.
Senior Zahra Harmon, of Homewood, said she is disappointed this incident marks the end of her senior year, especially after the wonderful experience she just had in March traveling to Italy with the high school choir.
“Everyone was trying to figure out what was happening. We were just confused as to what was going on,” she said. “Unfortunately, they picked the wrong school to be ignorant at, but also they claim that they didn’t know. If I was an administrator I would make sure they were heavily educated.”

Erica Bjorklund, a junior from Homewood, said she was similarly shocked and confused about the video. 

“You would think if it was going to happen anywhere, it wouldn’t happen here,” Bjorklund said. “I was really mindblown. Like, where did that come from?”

Senior Eniola Oyefeso carried a sign that said: “Hate Has No Home Here.” Students walked by her shouting “We want justice.” Oyefeso said she hoped the protest would force policy change.
“We want it for the future,” she said. “I want to change policies and (encourage) awareness of the struggle that blacks have been through.”
“(The four boys) thought it was a joke, but they didn’t understand it, which is why we, as a school, have to teach them about this. This is what we’re trying to push for.”  
Parent Erin Goodar-Shipp said her daughter “was very confused because she’s friends with some of the boys. She had mixed emotions. One, it was wrong, but on the other hand, she wanted to defend them.“ 
H-F students called the boys out on social media shortly after they posted the video.
“Honestly, they had a discussion before it went to the adults on social media and their friends addressed them. It was a lot more civil before the adults got involved,” Goodar-Shipp said.

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