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Four students at a Long Island Catholic high school have been suspended for a variety of offenses, including bringing a Confederate battle flag to school and appearing in blackface in social media photos.
Brother Gary Cregan, the principal at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, told CBS NY that two seniors went to an after-school sporting event wearing the flags draped around their shoulders.
“The African-American students who immediately saw it really exercised heroic restraint and fortunately a teacher immediately confiscated the flag and took the students out of the gym,” he told the local station. Cregan added that they were first suspended for 10 days, but he decided to extend their suspensions indefinitely.
According to the New York Daily News, the incident caused tensions to rise at the school, but it was not the last offensive thing students did.
A few days later, one girl posted a picture of herself on social media wearing black face, while another girl wrote racist messages online. Both were also expelled, Newsday reported.
CBS NY asked Cregan about those who think the students should be allowed to exercise their right to free speech. “I certainly think this particular symbol of hate falls in the category of something that should be excised from our culture,” he replied.
The school has 2,450 students in total, with 1,800 white and 138 black students. There are also 215 Asian students and 200 Hispanic students.
“The use of any symbol, either historic or current, which carries a meaning designed to revive past injustices or to inflame discrimination or racial intolerance, is completely unacceptable and profoundly offensive,” the school said. “As a Catholic and Franciscan school, Saint Anthony’s will always demand acceptance and respect for all races, religions and cultures.”
The students didn’t explain what sparked their actions and did not respond to CBS NY’s request for comment.