COATESVILLE, Pennsylvania -- Authorities are investigating a photo that shows several teenagers, believed to be students at Coatesville High School in Chester County, standing behind pumpkins that have racist symbols carved into them.
The image was posted on social media and has sparked a firestorm of reaction in the Coatesville community.
Hundreds of Coatesville Area High School students left classes early today to join parents who marched to the school in protest.
"We're trying to make a point," said Coatesville Area High School Senior Rahmeer Frazier. "We're not out here causing chaos, we're not out here causing a ruckus, we're trying to make a point because this is something we care about and we're standing on it."
This incident comes after a photo showing an ethnic doll hanging from the ceiling of a locker room inside Coatesville High surfaced last week.
Superintendent Cathy Taschner said these incidents will not define the district. She said she is disgusted by the photos, but they will certainly be used to make this a teachable moment.
"We will not tolerate it in our schools," said Taschner. "We will work to educate children and we will work to continue to educate staff. And we've been doing a lot of that."
Both the school district and local police are investigating these cases, and while no individual has been singled out, the photo of the hanging doll has already resulted in the cancellation of the remaining Coatesville High School cross-country schedule.
Student Council President Naomi Lee who said she understands the frustration of the protesters but she said it's important to deal with the situation with level heads.
"We have to be calm about this. You can't act out or make the situation any worse than it is already," said Lee. "It is pretty hard and it is a lot that is happening right now."
Coatesville police and Coatesville School District police are investigating. At this point there is no indication that any charges are pending, however, the district said all individuals involved in both incidents will be subject to sensitivity training.
The Coatesville Area School District released the following statement Tuesday night:
We are extremely disappointed that any of our students would display this kind of hatred and vile behavior. It's reprehensible and intolerable, and this photo causes deep sadness and concern. We work extremely hard to promote a tolerant, respectful, inclusive learning environment, and this is in direct opposition to everything we stand for and believe in. The photo appears to be taken outside of school hours and not on school property. While the law is specific as to the authority it confers upon schools for school-imposed discipline, the District will exercise its full authority it may have within those limits. Upon learning of the incident, our administrators immediately turned the photo over to police, and administrators are contacting parents of the students pictured. We'll be investigating the incident and continuing to work with our local equity agencies, including the PA Human Relations Commission, Mid Atlantic Equity Center, and NAACP this week as we are offering facilitated conversations for students about racism. The Coatesville Area School District is a caring school community that will not be defined by acts of hatred. We are encouraged by the outpouring of communication from students who reported this, and the many outstanding students who, on a daily basis, continue to do the right thing and who continue to stand in unity. We simply cannot accept this, and will do all we can to ensure that our community realizes that there is simply no place for hate in our school district.
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Pumpkins carved with racist symbols spark outrage, concern in Coatesville, Pa.