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Confederate flags, racial slurs seen on social media after event at Springfield Schools

Incident happened during outside group's meeting at the suburban Toledo school

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    Screenshots from social media show young people displaying Confederate flags Monday night outside Springfield High School. District staff are investigating.

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    Screen grab from Facebook of an image taken from Snapchat which shows a confederate flag.

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Screenshots from social media show young people displaying Confederate flags Monday night outside Springfield High School. District staff are investigating.

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Springfield Local Schools officials are investigating a Monday night incident shared on social media that involved young people taking pictures and videos of themselves holding the Confederate flag outside Springfield High School, and some messages that appeared to use racial slurs.

In a statement Tuesday, Springfield Superintendent Matt Geha said the event was associated with an outside youth organization that used the facility for a meeting. He said the district was “deeply saddened” over the incident, and cited Springfield’s “rich diversity of our people” as one of its best assets.

“Springfield Local Schools does not condone or support the behavior that was witnessed on our campus,” he said.

A district spokesman said that Young Life, a Christian youth organization, was holding a meeting at the school, and students in the pictures were affiliated with the group.

The pictures and videos, which appeared to have been shared on social media app Snapchat, show about a dozen young teens, many wearing cowboy boots and hats, with several students holding up a large Confederate flag outside the high school.

In some of the images, students appeared to use racial slurs in text they overlaid on the pictures. Text in one image reads “Get the [expletive] over it and quit crying you [racial slur].”  Others have messages saying “heritage not hate.”

Chris Light, director of West Toledo Young Life, said the group was having its outreach meeting at the school Monday. While adult volunteers set up inside, students brought out the flag in the parking lot, he said.

Once adults found out, they made the students put the flag away.

“We are saddened by the incident and committed to all kids, no matter the race, gender, or lifestyle,” he said. “We stand up against hatred and oppression of any kind.”

Tiffany Conner, who shared many of the images on social media, said she has family attending Springfield High School who were hurt that individuals displayed the flag and used racial slurs. 

“They were surprised that they would do us like that,” she said.

Ayana Wilson, Ms. Conner’s niece, said she knew most of the students shown on social media, and was shocked.

“I was friends with most of them, and we would all be cool and stuff, and now I look at them differently,” young Wilson, 15, said. “That's not how we grew up together. I've never seen that side of them.”

She said she spoke to one of the students today, and he was non-apologetic, saying he couldn’t get in trouble for his beliefs, she said.

Many students today wore black and repeated the mantra “black lives matter” at the school in response to the incident.

Melissa Stoll, mother of one of the students who posted the Snapchat videos, said the event on Monday night was “country themed,” and the students associated the Confederate flag with country music, and not with any racial implications. She said her son was not aware of the flag’s use as a symbol of white supremacy, and was surprised by the reaction of fellow students.

“It had nothing to do with color,” she said.

A widely shared picture with a racial slur typed over the image was taken by a student who wasn’t at the event, she said. Ms. Stoll also said other pictures, including ones saying “heritage not hate,” and another with a reference to President Donald Trump were opinions and political views, and not an indication of someone’s views on race.

Since the images were shared, the students involved have had their names published on social media and have received a number of threats, Ms. Stoll said.

“This has been completely twisted, and turned and blown into something it's not,” she said.

Mr. Geha said in an interview Tuesday that the district has determined that most, if not all, of the students involved attend Springfield Local Schools, although more investigation is needed.

The school is investigating each student’s involvement, their intent behind displaying the flag, and also racial slurs involved, and consequences could be meted out. 

“There are a lot of people who are sad and hurt by what they saw and heard other people talking about,” he said. “The school is a place where you want everyone to be comfortable, and I think that comfortable atmosphere was taken away by what people had seen and heard last night.”

He also said the district would investigate any reports of students being threatened, and has a School Resource Officer through the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office that can investigate any threats.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at nrosenkrans@theblade.com419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

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