Students involved in racist social media incident


Olivia Shirk

BIAS INCIDENT RESPONSE PLAN: an infographic outlining the district’s approach to handling an incident of racism or marginalization.

Several DGN students were involved in “racist and violent” social media posts, according to a Nov. 18 email sent out to the student body from Principal Janice Schwarze.

The email did not provide details, and the identities of the perpetrators and victims, as well as the specifics of the incident, remain unclear.

“Neither racism nor violence should ever be portrayed as a joke. These social media posts demean our community, and we condemn them without reservation or qualification,” Schwarze stated in the email. “Due to student privacy, we cannot share specifics about the posts or the consequences that will be issued, only that consequences for such behavior can be severe.”

It can be assumed that the consequences fall somewhere in the region of a suspension, based on Section 10 of the District 99 Student-Parent Handbook. Punishment for the use of “slurs, such as a racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, sexual orientation, or other discriminatory nature” can vary from detention to suspension depending on the severity and frequency of the incident, but Schwarze made clear in an interview with the Omega that this incident could be classified as “severe.”

Schwarze also commented on the perceived motive of the incident and that it likely stemmed from a fundamental misunderstanding of the severity of jokes about race.

“I don’t think this was something that was meant in any kind of a threatening way; I think that the people that were involved thought it was funny. Helping people understand that that’s not funny is kind of our goal,” Schwarze said.

Some have criticized the manner in which the administration has responded, pointing to a lack of details provided about the occurrence and those involved as an attempt to minimize the incident. Schwarze assured the Omega that the proper response to these types of incidents varies and that the district’s administration sought guidance from Teaching Tolerance, a program that provides social justice and anti-bias focused resources to educators, for proper response.

“This is something where it’s a case by case situation and you kind of have to look at what the post is… whatever the act is, that determines how specific we are in our response to it. There are times where we specifically identify it, name it, and call it out,” Schwarze said. “Actually, in some ways, that is the preference in how we try to handle some things. In this particular situation that was not the right way to go for a variety of reasons, but that was actually something that we talked a lot about.” 

According to Schwarze, various administrators, deans, the D99 Equity and Inclusion Council, and the Downers Grove Police Department were all involved in the handling of the situation. Schwarze highlighted in her email that this is not the first instance of racism at DGN and that the district has been working on an extensive Bias Incident Response Plan over the last several years to handle these situations.

For this incident, Schwarze explained how the administration wanted to strike a balance between inflicting punishment and helping the perpetrators understand the significance of their actions.

“We were very disappointed… It goes against everything that we believe here at DGN and try to model every day. But I also would say that people make mistakes, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad people,” Schwarze said. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re really very diligent about protecting people because we’ve all made mistakessome just do them more publicly than othersthe goal is for people to learn from them.”

According to an Equity Audit (a consolidation of data assessing diversity and equity in schools) a shortened version of which was presented to the District 99 Board of Education at the Nov. 16 meeting, the district has been making strides in a positive direction over the last several years with regards to equity and diversity through the work of the Equity and Inclusion Council as well as several other groups.

However, despite the District’s equity work, many students of color continue to feel unsafe and uncomfortable within the walls of DGN. Junior Quentin Mills highlighted this in an Omega interview, explaining his experience with those who stereotype and discriminate.

“A lot of stereotyping, definitely. And it’s happened a lot, and it makes me feel definitely, like I said, singled out, and it’s hard to feel like you belong at North. And I think the other thing is it gets frustrating because people don’t want to take the time to listen and learn,” Mills said.

*The Omega will continue to provide coverage of this incident with additional perspectives from students and teachers later this week via and corresponding social media platforms*