The high school students at Duluth Denfeld received a disturbing mass phone call Friday night. School administrators heard that a student had photoshopped the picture of a black classmate to show him being lynched with a noose around his neck. The caption: "Gotta hang 'em all."
The school has remained tight lipped about the investigation, but Duluth Superintendent Bill Gronseth confirmed that school officials have identified the students behind the photo. He wouldn't say how they would be disciplined.
As rumors fly throughout the student population, many Denfeld kids have some idea of who all are involved. While teachers keep mum about what they know, the students are talking to the original recipients of the Facebook photo and trawling through attendance sheets to see who's been recently suspended.
They want to know -- some say because they want to see the culprits punished, others because they want help mediate.
Junior Nicolette Stroud, who is mixed black and white, says Denfeld is in no way a racist school even though kids can be liberal with their racial stereotypes. She says the worst she's experienced is getting teased about how she doesn't seem "ghetto" enough to be really black. That sort of subtle racism annoys her, she says, but circulating a lynching photo is on a whole different level.
"Obviously saying the n-word, that's one thing, but when you're pretending to kill this student, that's not a joke, at all," Stroud says.
She wants the school to open up with its information. If teachers won't say how the responsible students will be disciplined, she can't be sure that they will be.
"It just seems like no one ever gets disciplined for bullying," Stroud says. "A lot of students are frustrated. We wanna know because we wanna feel safe. We wanna know that there's gonna be justice, because as far as we know, the kids who took that picture could still be in school."
Dylan Glader, another Denfeld student who is also white and black biracial, hopes the school won't go overboard with punishing the creators of the photo manip. The entire student body was disgusted to hear about it, he says. There's no need to make an example of the culprits.
He says one of his teachers revealed that the grandmother of the victim doesn't want the bullies suspended -- she just wants them to learn a lesson. Many of his classmates were infuriated by the photo, but he thought the grandmother's response was the more graceful approach.
Still, Glader says he wants the bullies outed. Some students might ostracize them forever, but there are also those who will accept a heartfelt apology.
"I just feel that if the students are oblivious to what's going on around school, we can't help," Glader says. "I'd accept them whatever their mistakes are. Everyone makes them."
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