An annual Halloween fundraiser for an agricultural program at Lebanon High School has come under fire after a photograph surfaced of students at the event posing in blackface with a racist caption.
Craig Swanson, the principal of Lebanon High School, said the students were operating a haunted barn and were supposed to be “as dark as possible” in order to go virtually unseen inside the haunted barn. Swanson said the school is “still investigating” whether the students were explicitly told to darken their skin.
The photo in question shows seven students in dark clothing with dark paint on their face, and a caption containing a racial slur. It was first reported by KEZI.
The majority of the students photographed contend they were preparing for their role in the barn and “had no idea” that the student who took the photo would add the caption, according to Swanson, who called the behavior “deplorable.”
“We will definitely be looking into the whole idea of blackening the face,” he said. “Even if it’s in regards to a haunted barn situation, it’s very hurtful, insensitive, and we need to do a better job.”
Swanson said the school has been in touch with the president of the local chapter of the NAACP to see how the school can support students of color in the aftermath of the incident.
The vice-president of the branch, Jason Dorsette, said in a statement that he didn’t believe the incident, which he called “inappropriate, insensitive and racist,” represented the entire school or district.
However, he said the local NAACP had been told of “other less-visible dehumanizing incidents” that had taken place within the school system.
In the context of these events, “the Lebanon School District must now demonstrate they will do what it takes to ensure that all students are safe and are given the same opportunities to thrive in school,” Dorsette wrote.
The school will decide on disciplinary action after they’ve had a chance to talk with all the students featured in the photo, some of whom did not show up to school Monday.