Some of Baltimore’s private schools are in the worst kind of spotlight this week, thanks to some deplorable Halloween antics from a group of students and an alum.
The photos began circulating Sunday evening. One picture depicts a male, an alumnus of the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland now enrolled at the College of Charleston, in an orange jumpsuit with “Freddie Gray” written across his back. The caption reads, “ur going to jail tonight.” The picture was taken at a party near the college’s campus.
The other picture shows two teens, one boy and one girl, wearing orange jumpsuits and making supposed gang signs, with an overlaid caption that reads, “N***s broke out,” referencing Ice T’s 2012 song, “Chrome plated 357.” The boy and the girl the picture attend the all-boys Gilman School and the all-girls Roland Park Country School, respectively, school administrators confirmed in letters to the school community. The caption was not written nor the photo posted by the students in the picture but by a third student who attends another local independent school.
“This situation has troubled and disappointed me deeply,” wrote Henry P.A. Smyth, Gilman’s headmaster, in his letter. “As I said today to Upper School students, as well as to faculty and staff, all of us who have seen the photos posted online agree wholeheartedly that they express values and beliefs that run counter to the kind of community that we seek to build at Gilman, to the character of young men that we strive to educate, and to the type of world that we hope our graduates will help to build.”
He and Caroline Blatti, Roland Park Country School’s head of school, pointed out in their letters that their pupils did not write the offensive captions, and that the photos were taken at separate events.
The student who did write the caption for the second photo reportedly attends the all-boys Mount Saint Joseph’s Catholic School. Per The Baltimore Sun, the school’s president, George E. Andrews Jr., wrote in a letter to parents, “Obviously, this sort of behavior cannot be tolerated, and we share in the hurt and dismay this action may have caused. We take all matters involving students seriously, and will determine how best to address the matter internally after further investigation.”
Boys Latin’s headmaster, Christopher J. Post, reportedly wrote to parents saying he was “so sorry for any hurt or pain that these actions have caused,” and said his school “denounces the insensitivity and intolerance depicted by these images.”
The Boys’ Latin alum’s college administration responded with revulsion as well. College of Charleston president Glenn McConnell wrote in a letter to the campus community that the Gray photo was taken at an off-campus party. He said the school’s public safety department and student affairs division “are conducting a full investigation.”
He advised the campus, “think about your party themes and costume choices and the impression they may have on others. If you have the slightest doubt if your costume/party theme is insensitive, be smart and don’t do it.”
Some of the private schools are now taking steps to make sure their teens understand the gravity of the racist undertones shown in the photos of their peers.
Roland Park Country School is bringing in Dr. Kaye Whitehead, an associate professor of communication and African and African-American Studies at Loyola University Maryland, to speak on Nov. 14, and parents say Gilman has canceled some of its Halloween-related activities.
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