newsday.com, Associated Press, Jan. 22
OMAHA, Neb. — Officials disciplined students who papered their nearly all-white high school with posters advocating a white student from South Africa for the school’s “Distinguished African American Student Award.”
Peggy Rupprecht, spokeswoman for the Westside Community Schools district, said administrators at Westside High School discovered more than a hundred of the posters throughout the school first thing Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“The content of the posters, they believed, was inappropriate and insensitive to some members of our school community,” Rupprecht said.
Citing privacy policies, Rupprecht said she could not specify what the penalties were or how many students were disciplined. But the mother of the boy pictured on the posters said he was suspended for two days.
The award has been given the last eight years to an outstanding black student as part of the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, she said.
The poster pictured junior Trevor Richards, 16, smiling and making a thumbs-up sign. A message at the top encouraged votes for him for next year’s award.
Karen Richards said her son and his friends were not trying to hurt anyone.
“My son is not a racist,” she told the Omaha World-Herald. “He has black friends, friends from Bangladesh and Egypt. Color has never been an issue in our home.”
“It was a very innocent thing,” she said.
Two of her son’s friends were disciplined along with him, she said. A fourth student was punished for circulating a petition Tuesday criticizing the practice of recognizing only black student achievement with the award, she said.
Tylena Martin, a junior, said the poster had been on the door to her homeroom class where she is the only black student. She said she felt hurt by the posters and the backlash that ensued.
According to 2002-2003 state statistics, 56 Of Westside’s 1,632 students are black.