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February 08, 2023

Students at two Philly high schools face discipline for racist blackface video

Leaders at St. Hubert's, the all-girls Catholic school, denounced the teens' behavior, calling racism 'a mortal sin.' A student from Franklin Towne has been expelled.

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Students at St. Hubert Catholic High School, 7320 Torresdale Ave. in Northeast Philly, posted a racist video to social media, showing one girl spray painting another's face black. One Franklin Towne Charter High School student involved in making the video has been expelled.

Two high schools in Northeast Philadelphia are swept in controversy after a group of students posted a racist video on social media. 

The students are from St. Hubert Catholic High School, the all-girls school in Holmesburg, and Franklin Towne Charter High School in Bridesburg. 

The video appeared online Tuesday and shows at least three teens together in a room and one of the girls spray-painting another's face black.

"You're a Black girl!. Know your roots! It's February!" the student with the spray paint can says in the clip. "You're nothing but a slave." The girl being painted in blackface eventually shouts back, "I'm Black and I'm proud!"

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said the teens from St. Hubert's will be disciplined. One student from Franklin Towne has been expelled, school leaders said. 

"Franklin Towne is a school that values inclusion and will not tolerate hate in any manner," a statement from the school. "The former student who took part in this video, and any other students who may choose to participate in this type of behavior have no place at our school.

On Wednesday morning, a group of demonstrators were outside St. Hubert's, at 7320 Torresdale Ave., carrying signs that read "Condemn and confront white supremacy" and "Prejudice creates pain," CBS3 reported.

Ken Gavin, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said the St. Hubert's community had received "reactionary general threats" in response to the video's circulation online. Those threats were reported to police. 

Out of caution, the school has been placed on a flexible instruction schedule for the remainder of the week. Students will be given assignments to complete from home and all extracurricular activities have been canceled until next week. 

St. Hubert's president, Lizanne Pando, and principal, Gina MacKenzie, released a statement Tuesday evening that said an investigation is underway and that the students involved in making the video will be disciplined.

Posted by St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls on Tuesday, February 7, 2023

"We are extremely disappointed to learn that anyone associated with Saint Hubert's would act in such a manner, which is entirely inconsistent with our values," the school officials said. "Please be assured that this matter is being actively investigated. All those responsible will be disciplined appropriately in accordance with our school handbook."

Gavin added there is no place for the behavior demonstrated by the students in the video, who violated both the St. Hubert's code of conduct and the school's technology policy — which applies both on and off school premises. 

Prior to this incident, St. Hubert's had been working with the Anti-Defamation League to receive a "No Place For Hate" designation. The school has contacted the ADL directly in response to the video and has also sought resources from the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing. 

“Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia seek to form young men and women of character,” Gavin said. “We view racism as a mortal sin. There is no place for it in our hearts and minds and there is no tolerance for such behavior at Saint Hubert’s or any Catholic School.”

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission said it is aware of the video and has reached out to St. Hubert's about bias and cultural sensitivity training for students and staff. 

"This type of behavior is unacceptable and offensive," said PHRC executive director Chad Dion Lassiter. "While I was pleased to see an immediate response from (St. Hubert's) saying they will investigate, it is imperative that they take appropriate action to ensure that students know the racist background of 'blackface.'" 

This story was updated after it was published to include information about the involvement of a student at Franklin Towne Charter High School.