Lyons Township High School South student targeted with racist comments on Snapchat, at school

Lyons Township High School South student targeted with racist comments on Snapchat, at school


WESTERN SPRINGS, Ill. (WLS) — As a gesture of pride and advocacy, Lyons Township High School South sophomore Heavyn Washington posted a picture and caption to her personal Snapchat for Black History Month.

“I posted a picture of the Civil Rights Movement and I said ‘Happy Black History Month. And don’t forget to keep advocating for Black lives,'” she said.

Almost instantly, she said, the comments lit up with venomous racist tropes; words too denigrating to say or show on television, or reprint here. Among the tropes referenced were cotton, bananas and guns.

“It’s… it’s horrible. I don’t understand why people act that way,” Washington said. “Especially during Black History Month, or in general. It’s disgusting.”

“I could not believe that these things were coming out of the mouths of children from the community,” said Sanita Lewis. “These aren’t strangers. These are people that she went to grammar school with, middle school with.”

Lewis’ daughter Olivia is a close friend of Washington. They were both instantly frustrated.

“Really, what I felt was I was angry. I was angry that it was allowed, I was angry that these children feel empowered by whomever to make these types of statements,” Lewis said.

The Snapchat incident happened last Friday. Then Lewis’ daughter went to school Monday.

“Monday was when she told me she came to school and was called the n-word walking through the hall,” Lewis said.

“I feel like I’m not welcome, and that if I go to school I’m in some type of danger simply because of how mean and aggressive they are when they say these things,” Olivia Williams said.

“I feel like a lot of people, minority especially, who go to a predominantly white institution feel like their voice doesn’t matter and they have to be silent, when that’s not the answer,” said Washington.

Lyons Township High School South officials sent a message to school community members on Feb. 4 saying they were “aware of social media posts circulating among our students and parents. The communications/posts…contain racist and hate-filled language that has impacted our learning environment.”

The school said it then took measures to bring students and staff together to engage in what the school called a healing circle.

Officials went on to say the school will “continue to be relentless in our pursuit of creating an inclusive school culture that focuses on belonging, respect, equity and empathy…LTHS does not tolerate any language, behavior or action that fails to support these ideals.”

Washington, Williams and Lewis said for the culture of racism the girls have endured, it’s not enough.

“What do you do for Black History Month? How do you acknowledge African Americans in history, in the world, in your community?” Lewis wondered.

Both students said they intend to stay in school there, and continue speaking up when they encounter these kinds of confrontation.

Full February 4 response from school officials

We are reaching out today as it is so important to include all members of our community as we work to support our students through an incident that has caused harm and made many feel unwelcome here at LT.

We are aware of social media posts circulating among our students and parents. The communications/posts, which appear to have been shared by LTHS students, contain racist and hate filled language that has impacted our learning environment today.

Our team is currently working to investigate the situation, obtain additional information, and support students who have been impacted. Please know we are collaborating with the Western Springs Police Department as we work to appropriately respond to this incident.

These types of situations reinforce the importance of the relationships we maintain with students, specifically as it relates to school safety. Each student, parent and staff member plays an important role, and we are appreciative of everyone’s efforts.

Lyons Township High School will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of creating an inclusive school culture that focuses on belonging, respect, equity, and empathy. We will continue to stand against all forms of behavior and rhetoric that are hurtful, discriminatory, and/or racist. To that end, please know that LTHS does not tolerate any language, behavior or action that fails to support these ideals.

We are working as a collective school community to cultivate a culture of belonging, and we will continue to provide opportunities for student voice, especially as we navigate through challenging times as a school community.

Full February 8 response from school officials

Our team continues to work to investigate the situation, obtain additional information, and support students who have been impacted.

As we continue our work as a collective school community to cultivate a culture of belonging, we will continue to provide opportunities for student voice, especially as we navigate through challenging times as a school community. Yesterday, during 4th and 5th hour lunch periods, students and staff at South Campus had the opportunity to come to the Library to engage in a Healing Circle. An announcement was shared in the morning to let students know about the opportunity. This gave students an opportunity to share, reflect and learn how we can heal together as a community. North Campus hosted a Healing Circle after school for students and staff in the Library; an announcement was made to inform our North Campus students and staff. Additionally, we shared resources with our teachers as they continue to build their knowledge and support students in the classroom.

As I shared previously, Lyons Township High School will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of creating an inclusive school culture that focuses on belonging, respect, equity, and empathy. We will continue to stand against all forms of behavior and rhetoric that are hurtful, discriminatory, and/or racist. To that end, please know that LTHS does not tolerate any language, behavior or action that fails to support these ideals.

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Author: Shirley