Saline High School staff and administration were made aware on Monday of racist comments posted on social media by students.
MLive obtained messages posted in a group chat on Snapchat created by Saline High School football players. In a chat titled “Racist,” followed by two gorilla emojis, one student introduced another to a chat with a message saying “My ni****,” while another responded by saying “Sup n****.” More messages were posted afterward by the same two students including “WHITE POWER” and “THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN.”
The chat included four students of color. After students sent the slurs and racist messages, some other students left the chat.
In an interview with The Daily, Scot Graden, superintendent of the Saline School District, said the school has a three-phase discipline policy, including initial discipline, restorative justice and education.
The restorative justice component typically entails either group or peer-to-peer meetings between perpetrator and victim but will be crafted on the comfort level of the victims. Graden stressed the importance of the educational component to ensure the impact of the racial slur used in the text is fully understood and never used again in the District.
“Understanding the implications of that term, understanding the historical context of how that word has been used over time is incredibly important for us to make sure the students understand and internalize,” Graden said. “I think it’s important for us to be able to learn about the history of that word, and they may have lacked awareness prior to this week, but there should be no scenario where they lack awareness following our steps to educate them as to what and why that word should never be used.”
At a Tuesday night school board meeting, MLive reported that Karamba Kaba, a Black Saline High School student who was added to the group chat, expressed feeling frustrated and unsafe after the incident.
“I honestly hope you can do something to make us feel comfortable walking the hallways of that school,” Kaba said. “I feel like everybody is looking at me the wrong way.”
Graden said the District is taking efforts to make students of color feel safe in the school district by explicitly calling out the language as racist and integrating educational opportunities inside and outside the classroom.
The Saline High School student body is nearly 90 percent white, while only 3 percent of students are Black. LSA senior Kevin Schnitzer graduated from Saline three years ago, and his younger brother is a current student at the high school. Schnitzer said he remembers multiple incidents when Saline students made racist comments, and said all were internally handled by the District. According to Schnitzer, the lack of diversity in Saline as a city and school district could exacerbate this problem.
"I don't know how much the school board talks about it or anything, but a lot of people say it's a super white school, and I mean, it's kind of true," Schnitzer said. "The vast majority of students there are white, that's just Saline residents. A lot more of them are white than anything else and there's not a ton of diversity in the student body."
In a letter sent to school district community members, Graden said Saline High School administrators conducted an investigation and found the incident to be an “act of racism” that caused harm to all of the District’s students, but especially students of color.
“Our School and our District find the words used in these posts to be deplorable and we strongly denounce the actions and words of these students,” the letter read. “This is an opportunity for us — the staff, students, and community of Saline Area Schools — to stand for anti-racism, respect, and inclusion of all students.”