Headmaster alerts community to existence of third racially insensitive video, similar graffiti

Susanna Kemp and Jason Altshuler

On Friday, Dec. 1, Headmaster Anthony Meyer sent out an email informing families of a third video that has surfaced. The third video shows the three students from the first video that was addressed to an African-American and Latino Scholars Program (AALSP) student, using the same racial epithet. In addition, Meyer informed people that a teacher discovered racist graffiti in a BHS boys’  bathroom; this information was also included in an email Meyer sent to students last night.

On Thursday, Nov. 30, there were two student walkouts at school as a response to the first two student-made videos.

The third video came to light in a classroom setting on Thursday, leading faculty to believe there was reason for investigation. Administrators and teachers spent the school day Friday determining the identity of the students in the video.

According to Meyer’s email, staff has closed the bathroom with the graffiti and is investigating. They are unsure as to when the graffiti was drawn.

We can erase these marks from our walls, but each time this happens our community is scarred,” Meyer said in yesterday’s email to students.

Today’s email also includes a recap of yesterday’s events, excerpts from Meyer’s PA announcement from the same day with his apology for the timing of his communication and general information for families who have not been directly contacted by the school since the email on Wednesday night.

December 1, 2017
Dear Brookline High School Families,
I write this afternoon to provide an update on the recent events at the high school including the two racist videos, the student walk outs, and our on-going support of students. I also want to share with you some new developments and to offer some reflections on how my team and I handled communication over the past week.
Yesterday was a tough day, and, in the end, a powerful and productive one. Students led two walk-outs and rallies on our front steps – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Several hundred students gathered to hear student speakers as well as some thoughts from me. In my public announcement to students and staff yesterday afternoon, I described the morning rally as follows:
Earlier this morning, our African American and Latino Scholars and other student leaders organized a powerful antidote to hate and ignorance. Speakers offered messages about the history of racism and dehumanization in our country and across the globe. They also talked about the need for learning and for love. Perhaps most importantly for our school, students made clear that the problem of racism at BHS and beyond is one we must all own and resist.
In addition to these student-led efforts to come together during a divisive time, our administration and staff created spaces for students to talk with one another and be heard. These happened within affinity groups and in larger, more diverse settings throughout the day. Beyond listening to and supporting our students, these meetings helped emphasize the message that racism is a collective problem that affects us all. I spoke to our school community’s need to take collective responsibility to combat racism in yesterday’s PA announcement:
Crises like these should spur each of us – every single one of us – to reflect on who we are in this community and how we help resist and fight hatred in all its forms, including racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia. As part of this reflection, we must also consider where we need to be better. That starts with me. I regret not communicating earlier than yesterday to the larger community – students, staff, and families.
I made the decision to address this as an incident between a small group of students – the ones who made the initial video and the student they were targeting. In hindsight, I should have reached out to others sooner. I am sorry for this, as doing so would have put everyone in a better position to support and care for one another.
As the principal of Brookline High School, I support all constituencies in our sacred endeavor: to foster the safety, health, learning and growth of all our students. I want to be clear that I recognize that earlier, wider communication on the original video was needed. I remain committed to being honest and open in speech and writing as this quality is critical as our same students wonder about me, and about us adults, as educators and as a school.
As such, it is important for me to share two recent developments related to this current situation:
  • Yesterday afternoon, a staff member found racist graffiti in a BHS bathroom. We closed the bathroom, documented this, and are investigating. It is hard to know when this graffiti happened, and yet it is important to let you know about it. I shared this information with BHS students and staff via email.
  • Today, we were made aware of another video that was made by the same three students – two graduates and one current student – who appeared in the original video. This, too, features the same, vile racial epithet from the other videos.
In these situations, as with the previous videos, please know we follow clear protocols and conduct thorough investigations including civil rights and harassment ones, as well as notify the police. Students who are found to have broken school rules get significant consequences.  While students and parents often ask us to announce any consequences, public school officials must follow state and federal privacy laws. We cannot publicly release information related to the discipline of any student.
As I’m sure you agree, these latest revelations are incredibly frustrating. I worry about our students, our school, and our community. I also know racism and other forms of hatred are endemic to our society. There are no easy answers on what we do next to strengthen our community. We will continue to work with students and families to identify concrete steps we can take to make Brookline High School a safe and supportive community for every single one of our students.
Anthony Meyer
Brookline High School