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Martin County School District concludes investigation into racist photo taken outside school

Superintendent provides statement about incident involving Hidden Oaks Middle School students
Hidden Oaks Middle School in Palm City, Florida
Posted at 12:19 AM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 01:09:09-04

PALM CITY, Fla.  — Martin County school leaders said Thursday the investigation into the racist photo taken outside Hidden Oaks Middle School is over. But it is still leaving many questions.

Superintendent Dr. John D. Millay released a statement Thursday evening saying the incident is being addressed.

"We are deeply aware of the hurt and pain this photograph has caused our community, especially our Black American residents and students," Millay said. "As we have said previously, this incident is in complete opposition to our values and the ideals that we instill in our students."

At Tuesday's school board meeting, parents and school board members spoke out about the racist image and the hurt it caused.

"I'm concerned about the post, but I'm concerned about what's going on behind the post that these kids were so brazen to display that," parent Marwin Porter said. "What is going on in the school?"

The district has not identified the students involved in the incident or released information on what discipline was imposed, saying state and federal law prohibits disclosing student education records.

The district also confirmed that no school personnel was involved in the incident or knew about the students' plan.

According to the district, counseling is being provided for any Hidden Oaks Middle School student in need.

Read Millay's full statement below:

The Martin County School District has finished its investigation into the inappropriate, racist photograph that was posted earlier this week. Our investigation included interviewing all students involved in the incident, the principal, the teacher whose class was used to create the photograph and others, as well as reviewing the metadata involved in the photograph and surveillance video from the school.

As we shared earlier this week, we are extremely saddened to confirm that the photographic is authentic and was not photoshopped or otherwise manipulated. We have confirmed that no school personnel were involved in or knowledgeable about the students’ planning, photographing and posting of the picture on social media.

Federal and state law prohibit the District from disclosing student education records, which include any specific student’s identification or any discipline imposed. We assure our community, however, that the District will address this incident consistent with its adopted policies as stated in the Code of Student Conduct.

We are deeply aware of the hurt and pain this photograph has caused our community, especially our Black American residents and students. As we have said previously, this incident is in complete opposition to our values and the ideals that we instill in our students.

We are providing counseling to any Hidden Oaks Middle School student in need and are working on longer-range plans to work with community partners to help heal the harm this incident has caused. We wholeheartedly understand the crucial importance of nurturing a continued dialogue in our community, specifically including our students, to create and foster a learning environment and community free of bigotry, hate and racism.