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Prestigious Silicon Valley school faces $2M lawsuit after claiming student photo was ‘blackface’

Prestigious Silicon Valley school faces $2M lawsuit after claiming student photo was ‘blackface’
Photo Credit: dsj.org
By Wesley Severson - Published on March 02, 2021.

Two former students of Saint Francis High School and their parents are suing the prestigious, private, Catholic institution in Mountain View for $20 million dollars in what they claim was a case of mistaken racism that cost the teen boys and their families irreparable harm. The lawsuit was filed in August of last year and is based on a photo posted to Instagram three years earlier that would ultimately force the two students out of the school.

According to the lawsuit obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, the two boys mentioned in the case were 14 years old and were accompanied by a boy from another school when the trio took the photo while they were wearing green acne masks in a bathroom with their shirts off. The masks were bought by one of their mothers who says initially they were light green but after they dried they turned a dark shade of green that appeared black in the photo. 

Another student at Saint Francis re-posted the photo to social media in June in the midst of tempers flaring over the George Floyd killing weeks earlier. The photo started spreading immediately with people all over the country claiming the boys were intentionally trying to portray blackface, which has been used for hundreds of years to mock African Americans. The photo sparked large protests in Mountain View and the suit claims that threats against the boys and their families got so intense they had to move out of the area.

Mountain View Voice reports that Saint Francis told the boys they could either leave or be expelled and that the families both chose to leave the school voluntarily. Administrators apparently disagreed that the photo was innocent in nature and hours after the parents tried to explain that the photos were not blackface they were told by the school that the boys would be forced out. The lawsuit suggests that St. Francis mishandled the entire situation and did not adequately investigate the photograph before jumping to the conclusion to kick the boys out. The suit quotes the principal as saying the decision to remove the students was based on optics.

According to Mountain View Voice, the whopping price tag includes payback for both emotional and financial damages, defamation, and breach of contract. The parents want reimbursement of $140,000 in tuition and expenses for relocating out of the area. The parents of the one boy claim that the situation forced them to move to Utah so their child could continue playing football and lacrosse. The other family moved three hours away with the student now finishing his senior year online. They both claim the students are now suffering from symptoms like stress, anxiety, confusion, lack of sleep, and fear for safety in the wake of the incident.

The Voice obtained a statement from Saint Francis saying due to student privacy laws, it couldn’t comment on the story.