Officials investigating NRHS photos

Published 12:48 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Suffolk school officials say four students who came to Nansemond River High School dressed as three police officers and an inmate with a “Black Lives Matter” sign meant it as a show of support for the movement.

One of the screenshots posted online. The students' faces were edited out by the original poster.

A screenshot of one of the photos posted online. The students’ faces were edited out by someone else.

The four female students took at least two pictures with the sign. One shows the girl dressed as an inmate being pinned against an exterior brick wall by the three girls dressed as police officers. In another photo taken inside the school, the girl dressed as an inmate is crouching with the other three girls surrounding her.

The photos were taken Monday on “Character Day” during Spirit Week, where students were encouraged to come dressed as a character of their choice. The photos were not taken during the school day, division spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said.

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The photos were posted on social media. One of the photos was captioned “This wasn’t as racist as it looks.”

In an email to an SPS parent who emailed him the photos and copied the News-Herald, Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney said the photos were brought to his attention Tuesday evening.

“Please know that an investigation will take place to allow us to deal with this and to prevent something like this from happening again,” Whitney wrote.

In a letter sent home to parents on Wednesday, principal Daniel O’Leary Jr. said the students’ “intent was to bring light and awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement and nothing more.”

O’Leary wrote that administrators had interviewed the students Wednesday morning, and the students “regret that the photos were interpreted in such a negative way.”

O’Leary said the Black Lives Matter sign was “a show of their personal support” for the movement and was not a part of the girls’ “cops and robber” costumes.

The students took it upon themselves to remove the photos from their personal social media accounts, O’Leary added. They also explained their intent with a few classmates who were upset.

“We encourage our students to be respectful of different viewpoints,” O’Leary wrote. “We will continue to discuss current political and social events as part of our ongoing classroom discussions as we teach our students to become responsible and civic-minded adults and future community leaders.”