Labor Day, according to the United States Department of Labor, is, “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
Ironically, this past Labor Day weekend marked not only the celebration of hard workers, but also the degradation of an equal society by a select few freshman girls from MICDS, whose racist comments in a Snapchat group chat were exposed on Twitter. Progression and decline clashed.
The liberal use of the n-word in the girls’ conversation sent a wave of anger and confusion throughout the school, and throughout St. Louis as multiple news outlets published stories of the controversy. CHS sophomores Lily Brown and Gwen Duplain remember seeing the original post of the screenshots on Twitter.
“There’s a fine line between jokes and not jokes,” said Brown, “that was way past a joke, and really not funny.”
Audrey Deutsch, a former member of the group chat, took screenshots of the conversation and left the group after multiple attempts to impede the negative language.
“They were apologizing, but not because what they said was wrong, but because they got caught and they were afraid something would happen to them,” Deutsch said.
The active participants in this conversation were quickly expelled, and Deutsch transferred to CHS. However, Deutsch is dissatisfied with how MICDS handled the situation so forcefully.
“I feel like they just expelled them so it would get off their reputation, so they didn’t really have to deal with it,” Deutsch said.
The outcome of this incident contrasts with the similar social media controversy that arose at CHS last year. While MICDS, a private school with more discretion with regard to their disciplinary code, was permitted to expel the students, CHS had less jurisdiction over how to punish their students. Dr. Gutchewsky faced this dilemma last year, as a public school principal.
“A private school can pretty much, within reason, discipline students for anything they do at any time,” said Gutchewsky, “whether it’s off campus or on school grounds, anything that even portrays the school in any negative light they can act in that regard. In terms of the rules around public schools, there has to be a direct connection to the school.”
Last year, the anti-semitic Instagram posts made by CHS students were met with an uproar from parents and students. The Anti-Defamation League was brought to the school to discuss ways to prevent future situations like that which had occurred at the school, and how to move forward from the incident. Brown’s comment on the ADL is similar to Deutsch’s comment on the expulsion of the MICDS freshmen.
“I think [bringing in the ADL] had a lot to do with the amount of people that found out about it, [The school] was embarrassed.”
MICDS also participated in the four-hour program. Whether or not students found the effective in reboosting the school’s morale and teaching valuable methods of communication, those students involved in the demeaning conversation still faced backlash from the community. The girls and their families continue to receive death threats on top of their expulsion, and their lives have been completely turned around.
“You always have to be self-aware of what you’re saying before you’re saying it”, Duplain said, “That joke literally ruined their lives.”
Gutchewsky agrees that what people say on the internet can have a considerable impact one one’s future.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to teach how to be responsible digital citizens. I think it’s also another sign that we as schools need to be cognizant of how we’re approaching tolerance and diversity, and deliberate about how we’re working with students in that regard.”
Gutchewsky also emphasizes the importance of using the incident as a learning tool, and to use the resources provided by the school in order to progress as a student body.
“What’s probably just as important, probably even more so than the disciplinary consequence, is how you work to prevent that pattern and move forward,” Gutchewsky said.