MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Four Long Island high school students have been expelled in the wake of two racially charged incidents, officials said.
The principal of St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, Brother Gary Cregan, said Wednesday he expelled two senior boys after they walked into a sporting event April 9 displaying a Confederate flag.
Newsday reported two sophomore girls also were expelled. They’re accused of posting a photograph of themselves on social media wearing blackface last Friday night.
“Two other students blatantly disregarded the principal’s request to discontinue the use of social media to inflame discrimination in the school community by displaying an inappropriate picture and comment,” the school said in a news release.
It was not clear if the two incidents were related.
“I have to judge intent and action, and the action alone, irregardless of intent, was, in my thinking, pretty heinous,” Cregan told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall on Tuesday.
As CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported, there was outrage and disgust over the incident at the sporting event.
“The African-American students who immediately saw it really exercised heroic restraint, and fortunately a teacher immediately confiscated the flag and took the students out of the gym,” Cregan said.
Cregan wrote a letter to parents saying the use of any symbols “designed to revive past injustices or to inflame discrimination or racial intolerance, is completely unacceptable and profoundly offensive,” Newsday reported.
Cregan said he sees the flag as a symbol of racism.
“I find it just very hard to even imagine why any student in 2014 would even consider or think that a Confederate flag would be anything other than a symbol of hate,” Cregan said.
Many students and parents agreed.
“It’s absolutely absurd,” said student Jessica Flynn. “I don’t understand why you would bring up things from the past that are hateful.”
“It represents slavery to us. It represents racism and prejudice to us,” parent JuJu Quinnonez added. “Believe me, I am all for freedom of speech but to have someone come in to school with that flag draped around their shoulder — I’m not really sure what the intent was.”
In response to those who said the students were exercising their right to free speech, Cregan said there are limits.
“I certainly think this particular symbol of hate falls in the category of something that should be excised from our culture,” Cregan said.
St. Anthony’s is a private Catholic school and isn’t bound by the First Amendment right to free speech.
Still, the New York Civil Liberties Union said all people should be able to express their views freely, even the offensive ones.
“Our motto is more speech, not censorship or punishment,” NYCLU Director Donna Lieberman told Brown. “Helping children understand the impact of this patently offensive expressive activity.”
The school was closed Wednesday in observance of Holy Week.
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