UPDATE: Dec. 6 ― The Haywood County students involved in sending threatening messages about black students at Haywood High School are not presently attending classes, the school district said in a press release Tuesday afternoon. The district would not provide further information about the students’ status.
The district is also speaking with “all necessary Haywood High School personnel” to determine the timeline of the incident. The school’s principal and vice principal remain suspended without pay, pending the outcome of the investigation.
CORRECTION: This update initially reported that the students had been “expelled,” citing language in the district’s press release regarding their “removal ... from the school system.” This article has been revised, per further inquiries with the district about the nature of that “removal.”
Students and parents at a high school in Brownsville, Tennessee, staged protests this week following reports that some students were texting each other about “stringing a n****r up” and “hang[ing] the n****r lovers.”
BuzzFeed published an image of a group text this week that Kyler Douglas, a graduate of Haywood High School in Brownsville, had shared on Facebook in November. Douglas, 21, said a friend of his who is currently a student at the school had shared the images with him. Douglas said his friend is black and was “too scared” to go public with the images himself.
Participants in the group text discussed “stringing a n****r up” and making “an example” out of “one black guy.” Douglas said the people in the group text are members of the Haywood High baseball team.
Three former students and one current student told BuzzFeed the people in the group text were made to write 10-page essays as punishment for the messages.
The school’s principal and assistant principal have been suspended, an administration official told HuffPost. School administration officials planned to meet with the Haywood County NAACP and parent representatives Tuesday afternoon.
Video from Monday showed protesters gathered inside the school. They later moved outside, where an estimated 200 people came together to share supportive messages against racism, according to local media.
The group text was brought to the attention of school administration officials on Sunday, according to Haywood County Schools Superintendent Joey Hassell.
The district has launched an investigation that involves local police, although Hassell said in a statement that he does not expect criminal charges to be filed.
“I have requested a detailed report of the investigation to date from the HHS administration,” Hassell said, adding that he has “been in communication” with police and the local district attorney’s office.
“It is my understanding that there will be no criminal charges,” he went on. “However, the school district will review the findings of the HHS investigation and determine what actions will be taken. A thorough review will occur.”
“Our job is to educate and protect all students,” he said. “Hatred, racism, and bigotry have no place in our school district.”
The investigation is expected to last through the rest of the week, Hassell said in a follow-up statement.
Thelma Taylor, the mother of a Haywood High student, told The Jackson Sun that she took particular issue with the reported initial punishment for the people in the group text.
“These athletes were punished with a 10-page essay,” Taylor said. “A girl got in a fight and was suspended from school for a week, and that’s not right.”
“Racism is still in existence in Haywood County, and it’s got to stop,” she told the Sun. “These kids are millennials, and the rules from the 1960s and ’70s don’t work for them.”
The Brownsville police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This article has been updated to reflect that the school’s principal and assistant principal have been suspended.