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California Teens Win $1 Million Lawsuit Against Catholic School Over Misinterpreted Blackface Allegations

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Two California teenagers have won a legal battle against Saint Francis High School, receiving $1 million and tuition reimbursement following their withdrawal from the institution over allegations of blackface. The Santa Clara County jury ruled in favor of the teens, identified only as A.H. and H.H., on charges of breach of oral contract and denial of due process.

Photo credit: Katrin Bolovtsova

Photo credit: Katrin Bolovtsova


By Catholic Online (California Network)
5/9/2024 (1 week ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: California, lawsuit, blackface allegations, Saint Francis High School, jury verdict, acne treatment masks

The dispute began when photos of the teens wearing acne treatment masks were misinterpreted as blackface, leading to their pressured withdrawal from the prestigious Mountain View school. The photos, which had been taken three years earlier, showed the boys using dark green face masks, a day after they had tried white masks.

The controversy erupted in June 2020 when the images were circulated alongside a meme related to the murder of George Floyd, causing a significant backlash. A fellow student shared the image in a group chat, erroneously accusing the teens of engaging in blackface and labeling it as further evidence of racism at SFHS.

Amidst the heated atmosphere, the school's administration, led by Principal Katie Teekell, suggested that one of the boys voluntarily withdraw to avoid expulsion and a permanent mark on his academic recordďż˝"a promise which was later retracted. Teekell's decision was purportedly based not on the intent behind the photograph but on its optics and the alleged harm caused to the school community. The boys were officially withdrawn from SFHS by June 19, 2020.

The lawsuit filed against the school claimed that the administration did not adequately investigate the matter nor did they offer assistance in correcting the misinterpretations of the photograph. Following their withdrawal, the boys faced further challenges, including restrictions on participating in sports at new schools due to the circumstances under which they left SFHS.

After a series of legal proceedings, the juryďż˝ s decision awarded the plaintiffs $1 million and covered additional costs related to the boys' relocation and tuition. The families of the boys stated that the lawsuit was aimed at reclaiming their reputation and clarifying the true nature of the incident.

Despite the juryďż˝ s decision, SFHS has expressed disagreement with the findings regarding the fairness of their disciplinary process and is considering appealing the decision. The school maintains that their actions were justified given the context and subsequent community response.

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