Retired judge: Barrington students in photo weren't acting racist
A retired Cook County judge says that while he doesn't believe nine Barrington High School students supported a known hate organization in a controversial photograph that surfaced on social media last month, what happened should be used as a learning experience for all teenagers there.
Daniel Locallo, who presided over criminal and civil cases in Cook County circuit court from 1986 to 2009, spoke about the photo during public comment time at Tuesday night's Barrington Area Unit District 220 meeting.
Some current and former students -- along with social media commenters from across the country -- contended that the photo was racist and brought it to the district's attention. District 220 officials said the nine girls in the group image were easily identified as Barrington High School students after being made aware of it July 11.
Locallo, who was among 17 jurists appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to study the death penalty in 2001 and recommend reforms, said he met District 220 board President Brian Battle and others at a political function in Lake County last week. He said he was shown the photo and that Battle asked what he would do under the circumstances.
He said he provided his thoughts to Battle and decided to travel from his Chicago home to share them publicly with the school board. Locallo said he believes the nine girls made certain signs to match their friend's initials and were not meant to be racist or "honor that despicable organization."
"I urge the board to use this situation not for purposes of discipline, not for purposes of punishment, but an opportunity to educate," said Locallo. "An opportunity to educate the whole school body to think about the consequences when you do certain things that may seem innocent in nature and how it affects other individuals."
Battle said he appreciated the judge's appearance at the board meeting.
"It's a process that's still underway, and we'll see where it ends up," Battle said of the case.
District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said after Tuesday's meeting that administrators will be on the lookout for potential problems stemming from the photo when students return for the first day of classes at Barrington High on Aug. 21.
"We're going to be uber sensitive to this as school opens on the 21st," Harris said.