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Illinois High School Students Stage Walkout Over Blackface Posts

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  • Around 1,000 students walked out of their Illinois high school on Tuesday after four male students wore blackface and made derogatory comments in videos posted to Snapchat.
  • School officials said they cannot release details about the students involved or their punishment, but the community feels that not enough is being done.
  • The school supported the walkout and has promised to move forward with diversity and cultural competency training for all staff members and students.

Blackface Posts

Hundreds of students at an Illinois high school participated in a walkout on Tuesday after fellow students wore blackface and made derogatory comments in social media posts.  

The four male students are Homewood-Flossmoor High School posted videos of themselves wearing blackface while in a McDonald’s drive-thru. According to ABC 7, in the posts, the teens also made disparaging comments about black women.

The posts were uploaded to Snapchat and show at least one student wearing the high school’s sweatshirt. Screenshots of the videos were widely shared among the student body over the weekend, sparking a ton of outrage.

School’s Response

School officials said that they became aware of the posts early Sunday morning and immediately met with the families of the students involved. However, because of confidentiality laws, the school said it could not release the names of the students or the actions that it has taken against them.

“This type of behavior is contrary to our expectations, is being addressed quickly and appropriately and will not be tolerated,” the school added in a letter to parents sent Monday.

Walkout

Still, many students believed that the school’s response was underwhelming and felt that more needed to be done to make it clear that these type of acts are not be tolerated on campus.

In fact, many were outraged to see the students in class Monday morning. One student told CBS News, “They should have been suspended or expelled or something should have happened to let these guys know that that is not okay.”

“Our school is not doing a good job of protecting our rights. They are protecting the guys who did this.”   

Another student said that the boys involved are escorted to each class by security and leave five minutes ahead of everyone else.

Black students and parents told the Chicago Tribune that they felt that in the past, white students have been given a “slap on the wrist” for behaviors that earned black students more severe punishments. Nearly 69 percent of Homewood-Flossmoor’s student body is black, but around 80 percent of its teachers are white, according to state data.

In response to the videos, students at the school decided to organize a walkout in protest.

Around 1000 of students walked out of class Tuesday afternoon, spreading messages of diversity, inclusion, and equality.

School Supports Walkout

The protest was even backed by school officials. “We have been made aware that some of our students may participate in a walkout sometime today to express their frustration with the social media posts and actions of a few students this past weekend,” the school said in another letter to parents sent Tuesday.

“We support their right to express themselves, and we will work to ensure that all students are safe and respected.”

Officials at Homewood-Flossmoor also addressed students via their school’s TV news channel the morning of the walkout and discussed the importance of sharing their voice.

School leadership later sent a special message to students over video after the walkout, with Superintendent Von Mansfield and Principal Jerry Lee Anderson saying, “We would like to applaud our students and staff members who participated. Our students were amazing and conducted themselves in a very peaceful and orderly manner.”

What’s Next?

CBS News reported that at least one of the teens involved in the offensive posts has apologized, saying that he was unaware of what blackface was. However, many students have rejected this claim and said that if true, the school must do a better job of teaching black history.

The administration sent a follow-up letter after the student’s demonstration where they touched on long-term and short-term plans to address the issue.

On Wednesday, the superintendent and the principal will join students in their English classes for an “interactive discussion.” Then in the future, school leaders will move forward with plans that start with “diversity and cultural competency training for all staff members and students.”

“Please know that we understand your frustration that the school district cannot legally share specific information related to student discipline, but do know that the type of behavior these students displayed is not condoned by the school and that we are doing everything possible to ensure that these students understand the ramifications of their actions and that appropriate consequences are received,”the school said in its latest statement.

See what others are saying: (Chicago Tribune) (The Washington Post) (CBS News)  



U.S.

Ohio Police Fatally Shoot Black Teenage Girl

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  • Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl, was fatally shot by a Columbus police officer Tuesday afternoon.
  • Police released body camera footage that appears to show Bryant lunging at two other women with a knife before the officer opened fire.
  • Members of Bryant’s family disputed parts of the police department’s version of events, including Bryant’s aunt, who said the teen called police and was trying to defend herself from people who had come to her foster and threatened her with physical assault.
  • The incident came just before a Minnesota jury convicted former officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, exacerbating frustrations over repeated police killings of Black people in America.  

Ma’Khia Bryant Shot by Police

Columbus police shot and killed a Black teenage girl Tuesday, shortly before the verdict against Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, adding tension to existing conversations about excessive use of force from police against Black people.

The girl was identified as 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant by a spokesperson for Franklin County Children’s Services, who said she had been in foster care. 

During a news conference late Tuesday night, Columbus police said the shooting happened after they received a 911 call around 4:30 from someone who said that women were trying to stab them before hanging up.

The law enforcement officials also played segments of body camera footage from the officer who fired the shots, which they said showed the victim lunging at two others with a knife.

In the graphic video, the officer is seen getting out of his car as Bryant appears to chase someone who falls onto the sidewalk. She then lunges at another person, and the officer yells “get down” three times before quickly firing at least four shots at the teenager.

Bryant collapses on the ground, and the bodycam video shows a knife next to her as officers attempt CPR. People at the scene immediately start screaming, and one man can be heard yelling, “You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!”

“She had a knife,” the officer responds. “She just went at her.”

Police officials said Bryant was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Notably, they did not identify the officer who shot her, though they did say he would be pulled off patrol duty while the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducts an inquiry.

Some of Bryant’s family members contradicted elements of the police report. Her aunt, Hazel Bryant, told The Daily Beast that adult women had come to the foster home and started an altercation with her niece, who called the police.

Hazel claimed that Ma’Khia grabbed the knife to defend herself and was fending off a physical assault when the police arrived. She also told a local outlet that the teenager had dropped the knife before she was shot, but the slow-motion capture of the video shown by the police appears to show the knife in her hand at the time.

Protests & Response

According to local reports, shortly after the shooting, a group of roughly 60 people gathered at the site to demonstrate but dispersed around 10 p.m. Others protesters also took the streets of downtown, with many gathering in front of the Columbus Police Department headquarters.

The shooting quickly sparked a widespread response on social media and #MKhiaBryant became a trending Twitter hashtag. Many argued that the shooting, which coincided so closely with the Chauvin verdict, shows that single instances of police accountability do not change systemic problems.

“The emotional contrast between the #DerekChauvinVerdict and the killing of #MaKhiaBryant is exactly why we must not use small wins to justify the end of large fights!” tweeted Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. “We must stay steadfast in our pursuit of #PoliceAccountability WE NEED #PoliceReformNOW”

Other users also condemned the officer for immediately shooting Bryant instead of trying to de-escalate the situation or use other tactics like a Taser. Some asserted that if police can arrest white men who commit mass shootings without killing them, they can do the same for a Black teenager with a knife.

“In a world where the police can safely apprehend white male mass shooters. I would really like to know why a trained police officer assumed that the only way to deescalate a fight, where a 16 year old black girl had a knife, was to immediately shoot her dead,” one user wrote.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Daily Beast) (The Columbus Dispatch)

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USDA Extends Free Meals for All Students Through June 2022

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  • The U.S Department of Agriculture will extend free meals for kids at schools and daycare facilities through the 2021-2022 school year.
  • The move will bring much-needed relief to families across the country as an estimated 12 million children are experiencing food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • The extension also gives schools time to prepare and improve their current meal distribution systems without having to scramble to process a massive influx of free lunch applications at the start of the year.

USDA Call for Free Lunch Extension

The U.S Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will extend free meals for children at schools and daycare facilities through the 2021-2022 school year.

In the early days of COVID-19 last March, the USDA implemented Child Nutrition waivers that cut through barriers to allow kids to eat free even outside of normal school settings and meal times.

Those waivers also allowed schools the flexibility to adapt their own programs to better meet the needs of their families. For instance, they allowed parents to do a curbside pickup of multiple days of food at once for students learning from home, even without the student being present. In many cases, they allowed for meals to be dropped off at a student’s home if they continue to learn virtually part- or full-time.

The USDA even increased the school’s meal reimbursement budgets to allow for healthier options and cover bigger costs that came due to added transportation and labor, as well as pandemic-related supply shortages for to-go boxes, Personal Protective Equipment, and more.

These waivers were only supposed to last until Sept. 30, which left a ton of families uncertain about what to do after that as many continue to struggle financially.

Helps Remove Extra Burdens

Now, the extension will bring much-needed relief to families across the country because according to the USDA, an estimated 12 million kids are experiencing food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While celebrating more free meals for students, school nutrition groups have also pointed to the fact that this gives schools time to prepare and improve their current meal distribution systems after the surge in need this current school term.

Diane Pratt-Heavner, director of media relations for the School Nutrition Association, the trade group for school food-service manufacturers and professionals, told The Washington Post, “Schools aren’t going to have to scramble to collect applications from families that are eligible.

“At the start of every school year, this is a huge task for administrators to collect and process the applications, a task made bigger because during the pandemic there are more families eligible who may never have applied before.”

It also means fewer “touch points” like keypads that take pin numbers to prove free meal eligibility. 

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (The Washington Post) (EdSource)

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Chauvin Trial Judge Says Rep. Waters Comments Could Be Grounds for Appeal

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  • Judge Peter Cahill, who is overseeing the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, said on Monday that Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-Ca.) suggestion that protesters “get more confrontational” if the jury does not return a guilty verdict could be grounds for the case to be appealed.
  • Cahill’s remarks came after Chauvin’s lawyer moved for a mistrial, arguing that  Waters’ comments, made this weekend, amounted to threats and intimidation. Cahill rejected the motion.
  • Republican politicians quickly condemned Waters and claimed she was inciting violence, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), who proposed a measure to censure her.
  • Democrats defended the Congresswoman, arguing she was not encouraging unrest and accused McCarthy of hypocrisy. Others slammed Cahill, arguing he was undermining free speech and pointing to incidents where similar remarks were not considered grounds to appeal a case.

Judge Cahill Admonishes Rep. Waters

The judge overseeing the trial against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, said Monday that comments made by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) over the weekend could be grounds for the entire case to be appealed.

While speaking in Minneapolis on Saturday, Waters said that protesters should “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if Chauvin is acquitted.

Following closing arguments Monday afternoon, Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, asked for a mistrial, arguing that the Congresswomen’s remarks amounted to threats and intimidation against the jury.

Judge Peter Cahill, who ended every day of testimony by telling jurors “have a good night and don’t watch the news,” dismissed the request, arguing that he believed her remarks would not prejudice the jury, but adding a key caveat.

“I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” he said. “I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.”

Response & Backlash

Immediately, numerous Republicans seized on Cahill’s comments, condemning Waters and accusing her of inciting violence.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), announced on Twitter that he was introducing a resolution to censure Waters.

Many also defended Waters, claiming she was not inciting violence. That includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) who said her colleague was talking “about confrontation in the manner of the civil rights movement.” 

Others who took to Twitter echoed that, arguing that McCarthy was being a hypocrite because he himself spread false election claims promoted by former President Donald Trump. Those claims would later incite the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Some additionally accused the minority leader of censuring a Black woman for speaking out against violence in her community but refusing to take any action against members of his party. Many specifically flagged Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), who is being investigated for sex trafficking a minor, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who previously posted racist and antisemitic comments on social media and liked posts calling for Pelosi to be assassinated.

Others took direct aim at Judge Cahill, arguing that he was undermining Waters’ right to free speech and that he was the one who warned the jury not to pay attention to the news but did not sequester them from the get-go.

That point was bolstered by some who pointed out previous incidents where similar remarks were not considered grounds to appeal a case.

“If a statement from Maxine Waters can be used as justification to overturn a guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin on appeal, then courts are gonna have to go back and revisit every single case where Donald Trump made a comment about pending trials for 4 years when he was in office,” CNN commentator Keith Boykin wrote.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)

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