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Martin County students who shared racist photo could face more severe punishment

Code of conduct deems racial slurs less severe than alcohol, tobacco offenses
Hidden Oaks Middle School in Palm City, Florida
Posted at 6:32 AM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 11:56:00-04

PALM CITY, Fla. — In an email to WPTV, Martin County School District leaders have confirmed that the group of middle school students accused of posing in a racist photo can face a more severe punishment than what's listed in the code of conduct.

Blurred picture of Hidden Oaks Middle School students holding letters spelling racist slur
This blurred photograph shows students at Hidden Oaks Middle School holding letters spelling out a racist slur.

"Hypothetically speaking, any student found to have displayed a racist message on school district property may be subject to discipline up the measures outlines as level 3 consequences in our code of student conduct," district spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo said.

In the code of conduct, there are four levels of offenses.

Level one is considered the most minor, while level four is the most severe.

Racial slurs are deemed a level two offense.

Level three offenses include things like fighting, vandalism and possession of tobacco or alcohol.

In the code, each level of offense is associated with a specific level of punishment options.

Level two punishments for offenses like racial slurs normally include community service, alternative placement or out of school suspension for five days.

It's not until level three that students can be reported to law enforcement, be suspended for 10 days or face expulsion.

The code of conduct indicates that punishment can't be more severe than the offense level at issue, meaning for a level two offense like racial slurs, expulsion is not allowed.

At this time, it is unclear how the district can hand down a level three punishment for a level two offense.

Next month, school board members will be meeting to review the code of conduct for the next school year.

DeShazo said that the district is unable to share specifics about the types of discipline given to the group of students, citing federal student privacy laws.