Over two-hundred students, parents, and concerned citizens protested outside Haywood High School in Brownsville, Tennessee yesterday, after the school failed to punish a group of athletes for racist threats. Students first gathered in the cafeteria on Monday morning, refusing to go to class until their concerns were addressed. When the group got too large, it moved out onto the front lawn.
The outrage was sparked by a leaked screenshot of a private group chat between members of the Haywood High School baseball team. The players were discussing lynching black students, or white students who associate with black students "as an example." The comments escalated until names were named of actual Haywood High black students.
The screenshots were posted by 21-year-old Kyler Douglas, a Haywood alumn who says he got the images from a black player on the team who was "too scared" to come forward with them. However, according to current students at Haywood High, the only punishment inflicted on the players who made the death threats was a ten page paper. Students told The Jackson Sun that the lack of consequences from the schools administration is what really made them angry.
Haywood High School's student handbook classifies death threats of any kind as a "level four offense," which is grounds for immediate expulsion. Considering the vast difference between the punishment dictated by the rulebook, and the punishment that was dealt, students are calling for the school's principal, assistant principals, and other key members of the faculty to either resign or be terminated.
Many parents took the time to stand with their children outside of the school. They echoed the concerns of the student body, and respected the children's choice to resist. "I'm proud of our students for protesting peacefully and exercising their right to do so," said Student Services Officer Art Garrett. The students have been peaceful and respectful, and we thank them for that."
The school is now conducting a full investigation into the incident and the ensuing disciplinary action. The superintendent, Joey Hassell, issued a statement as well.
"Based on review of the DA's office, it is my understanding that there will be no criminal charges," he said. "However, the school district will review the findings of the HHS investigation and determine what actions will be taken. A thorough review will occur. Our job is to educate and protect all students. Hatred, racism, and bigotry have no place in our school district. Please know that we are cooperating with the Brownsville Police Department to ensure that we have a safe, orderly learning environment for our students."