- 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)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.