Stevenson addressing photos of Klan costume at party, official says

  • Stevenson High School officials plan to speak with students shown in a photo circulating on social media over the weekend depicting a student wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume at a Halloween party several years ago.

    Stevenson High School officials plan to speak with students shown in a photo circulating on social media over the weekend depicting a student wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume at a Halloween party several years ago. Daily Herald File Photo, 2018

 
Updated 7/12/2020 9:56 PM

A Stevenson High School official said Sunday the school is aware of photos circulating on social media purportedly showing a current student dressed in a Ku Klux Klan costume at a Halloween party.

However, school spokesman Jim Conrey said the photo appears to have been taken three of four years ago while the student was in seventh grade.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Quite frankly, Stevenson does not have legal authority to punish any of these students based on actions or statements they might have made while they were in junior high school," Conrey said, adding that officials nonetheless plan to contact the students involved.

The two photos came to the attention of officials at the Lincolnshire school over the weekend, when they also were posted to the Instagram account "Black at Stevenson High School" and the Facebook page of SHS BLM (Black Lives Matter).

One shows the student in the Klan outfit -- a white robe with a pointed white hood covering the face -- posing with nine others in costumes.

The second photo depicts the student in the Klan costume surrounded by six female students, two displaying what appear to be replica handguns. The unmasked students' faces are covered with black bars in both photos.

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"The racism displayed in these pictures are a result of bigotry going unchecked at Stevenson and the culture of reckless and inhumane racial harassment," a Facebook post accompanying the photos states.

"Our schools are responsible for educating our students why actions like this cause serious and traumatic harm. Instead, they remain complicit."

Dora Guo, a 2019 Stevenson graduate who is active with the Facebook group, said the photos are indicative of wider problems in the community.

"I think it's more this idea that these kids felt comfortable, that nobody had taught them in the course of their (schooling) that what they were doing was wrong, it shouldn't be online, and that as a school Stevenson has therefore failed in its job in that regard," she said.

Conrey said the school is taking seriously complaints raised on the two social media pages about difficulties Black students face at Stevenson.

"We are not sweeping this under the rug. We are going to be addressing this, but we are also trying to take care of the very important matter of trying to reopen our school as well," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The school also has received reports that some of the students shown in the photos have been the target of hateful and obscene comments online.

"Certainly, we would never condone what is in the photo, but at the same time I think we need to reinforce the message that fighting hate with more hate isn't the solution here," he said. "This is not the way to achieve reconciliation."

It is the second racially-tinged controversy involving Stevenson in recent weeks.

Last month, a Stevenson dean resigned after a video recording surfaced showing his confrontation with a Black student, sparking allegations of racism at the school.

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