- 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.
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 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.
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.”
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)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.