GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A letter was sent home Sunday evening to families whose children attend Forest Hills Northern High School, following an incident on Thursday.
Several people posted photos on social media, showing a student in a classroom, wearing blackface, which is makeup that was used to portray racial stereotypes in the 19th Century.
While some people on social media claimed the student shouted racial slurs while in blackface, the school says that is not the case. School leaders also say at no point was the student allowed to walk the halls with the makeup on.
Below is the letter sent home to parents Sunday evening:
Dear Husky Families:
An incident occurred last Thursday that has created much conversation and negativity about and toward Northern. People are hurting and this needs to be remedied. I have always believed (and continue to believe) that Northern High is a great place for our students. But we are not perfect and there is work to be done. The goal of Northern High has consistently been to be a place where ALL students feel welcomed and are able to pursue success in education. When that is not the case, we need to examine what is occurring and work to fix the issue.
Northern High school does not condone or accept when persons’ actions and/or words harm another intentionally or unintentionally. We talk about Husky Pride, “The Pack”, and UBUNTU. We cannot simply use these words; we must live them. We need to respect each other as human beings and our differences of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other difference we may have. While we may not agree with each other all of the time, we can respect each other. We all need to agree that racism is not acceptable in Forest Hills.
Here are the facts of the situation that occurred on Thursday during 5th hour: Some students found makeup in the back of the room that had been left previously in the day by another student. One student used that makeup to paint his face black (which gave the appearance of a racial stereotype). Other students in the class took pictures and those pictures ended up posted on social media. The student began cleaning his face and, when he could not get it off, he went to the bathroom to remove the makeup. We were notified on Friday of the situation and began investigating. Through our investigation and talking to students and the substitute teacher in the room, there was never any mention of the student using racial slurs nor was the student “allowed” to walk around the hallways with the makeup on his face.
We need your help in having these conversations with your students at home while we continue to work at Northern High to grow and learn. People need to understand while they may say or do something, regardless of their intention, if it hurts another, it is not funny.
Together, we can ensure that Northern High School is a place that is welcoming and safe for ALL students to learn.
Jon Gregory, principal
John Dolce, assistant principal
Stephanie Hare, assistant principal
Cory Anderson, athletic director
FOX 17 reached out to the student in question, as well as community members and school officials. Nobody was available for an on camera comment at this time.