A photo of what is said to be a Pickerington (Ohio) High School North student dressed up as a Klansman . (Screenshot abc6 news report)
Students at Pickerington High School North are now going through racial sensitivity training after some students made racist posts on social media.
According to WCMH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, in one case, a photo of a student dressed in a KKK costume was posted on Snapchat. Principal Mark Ulbrich told the media the costume was obtained from the prop room of the school’s performing arts center and that the students involved have been disciplined.
In another post, a female student uploaded an image of herself wearing black face accompanied by a racial slur. She and her parents are receiving counseling, school officials reported.
Principal Ulbrich went a step further, sending an e-mail to parents Jan. 11 in which he condemns the behavior of the students as not representative of the school’s standards and assures that the administration is working to address the problem
“We are taking swift and firm action in dealing with recent situations at Pickerington High School North,” the statement read in part. “Those actions did not reflect the cultural sensitivity that represents the values of the school or district.”
But Roni Cook, an African-American sophomore at the school, said while these incidents have just come to light, she has experienced racism for nearly two years. She told WSYX, Columbus’ ABC affiliate, that when she was on the cheerleading squad, one teammate called her the N-word as a joke. The student later apologized, but Cook has since quit the cheerleading team because of the racism she experienced.
“Some of the students think it’s okay and think it’s funny to say the N-word, say jokes about it,” Cook told WSYX.
To address such incidents of casual—sometimes unintentional—racism, the school has brought in an outside firm to host cultural sensitivity training sessions for the entire high school, Ulbrich told parents in the e-mail. The sessions are being led by a company called Significance and are scheduled to go on throughout the entire school year.
“What we are seeing in this building is an example of what we are seeing in the nation,” said Demia Kandi, of Significance, who conducted a training session Jan. 14.
Omar Abdellatif, a Muslim student from Egypt and a senior at Pickerington North, said he was impressed with the training session so far.
“I was surprised – I mean, students got up, I was one of them, and people were getting along,” Abdellatif told WCMH-TV. “It was a good conversation.”
Ulbrich said the sensitivity training is just the first step in addressing race issues for the school. The school is currently thinking of other ways to integrate diversity and inclusion into the curriculum.