Black students targeted in virtual hate comments

Racist social media post circulates around community

Olivia Grefenstette, Reporter

On Feb. 4, hateful, racially motivated speech over Snapchat caught the attention of students and faculty and disrupted the learning environment at LT, Principal Jennifer Tyrrell wrote in an email to students, families, and faculty. While those who sent and received these comments, such as Heavyn Washington ‘25, were students at SC, their messages were viewed and discussed at both campuses. In allegiance with the school’s pledge against discrimination and hate speech, Tyrrell’s email reinforced that LT is taking action.

“Lyons Township High School will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of creating an inclusive school culture that focuses on belonging, respect, equity, and empathy,” Tyrrell wrote in her email. “We will continue to stand against all forms of behavior and rhetoric that are hurtful, discriminatory, and/or racist.” 

Furthermore, LT held healing circles on Feb. 7 at both campuses to create a safe space for students. 

“These events were held to open the door for communication,” NC Assistant Principal Darrell Mathis said. “However, the type of support is assessed hour by hour based on what students voice they need.”

  During all four lunch periods at SC, around 100 students participated and shared not only how the posts affected them, but also what they want to see in response from LT, Director of Equity and Belonging Jennifer Rowe said. A general theme of the meeting was that LT students can do better in calling out peers making racist jokes or comments and educating themselves on how to be more effective allies.

Nonetheless, incidents like what occured on Feb. 4, made students, specifically those targeted in this post, feel unsafe and unwelcome at LT. 

“I feel like I’m not welcome, and that if I go to school, I’m in some type of danger simply because of how mean and aggressive [students] are when they say these things,” Olivia Williams ‘25, a friend of Washington and an impacted student, said on ABC 7 Chicago News. 

While LT aims to consistently maintain an open and welcoming environment, it is especially important during incidents such as these posts, Superintendent Brian Waterman said. Counselors and faculty advise students to reach out with their needs and know that support is available. LT is currently reacting to these hateful posts, yet they will also proactively work to prevent them in the future.

However, according to Williams and other students of color, LT has room to grow in creating a safe and caring environment.

“I’d also like to say that the school does not do a good job at keeping their minority students safe,” Williams said. “It’s just uncomforting that they say that this school is a safe and equal place, but it is divided underneath the surface.” 

While healing circles and Black History Month events are appreciated, it is important to hold students accountable and show that while racism has been normalized, it still is not okay, Willaims said. 

“I cannot speak for the whole African American community at LT, but I can say for some of us, we want justice for Heavyn and also myself and any other unheard students that have been affected by these students,” Williams said.