On Monday, a Hillcrest High School student in Greenwood County, S.C., was filmed holding what appeared to be a rifle in her left hand and in her right hand a poster with a threatening message which targeted African-Americans written in large letters reading, “We hang ******* for free.” The post was publicly seen on Snapchat and then shared on Facebook.
Hillcrest High School administrators investigated the racially-charged photo on Tuesday. The administration suspended the student but admitted that they’d have to see which punishment fits the offense per the district’s handbook.
According to the district’s handbook on pages 7-8 for the offenses of intimidation, threats and inciting a fight, and the use of vulgarities, obscenities, and profanity; all of which range in severity of punishment from a warning to calling law enforcement. The only offenses that call for expulsion are intimidation, threats. All of the listed offenses call can call for the suspension of the guilty student.
Hillcrest High School, which is located in Simpsonville, S.C., inside of Greenwood County, also mentioned that they had to ensure the photo wasn’t altered. But that assertion seems ridiculous given the fact that Greenwood County is historically one of the most racist counties in South Carolina.
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Beth Brotherton, a Greenville County Schools spokeswoman, tried to calm fears by mentioning that the racist student had been suspended after she was identified and is now being recommended for expulsion. Brotherton also specified that the threat was made outside of school hours and from the comforts of the teen’s home via Snapchat and Facebook. And because it was distributed by the student body, it caused a “disturbance.”
As if offering to lynch Black people for free is merely a “disturbance.”
“Stuff like this isn’t necessarily a direct threat to the school, but it essentially incites panic and causes what it causes,” Brotherton said.
The school’s population is 64% white compared to the state average of a 52% white student population. And the school’s Black population is only 23% compared to the state’s average 34% Black student body population. These statistics suggest that not only does Hillcrest High School have a race problem but the city has one as well. And passing the photo off as a disturbance is just a cop-out by the administration to not deal with racism at the school.
The truth is, social media sites like Facebook and Snapchat amplify already existing racism — not cause it. It’s time to hold students and parents accountable for racism.
The first step for Hillcrest High School would be to expel the student responsible for the post. To not take the photo seriously would be par for the course.