ROCHESTER, Minn. – Reaction is pouring in after a racially-charged photo appeared on social media.
Rochester Public Schools has issued the following statement and confirmed two of the people in the photo attend John Marshall High School.
“Rochester Public Schools is aware of and investigating a racially charged image that is circulating on social media allegedly involving students at one of our schools. We want to ensure you, and our community, that the District will respond in an appropriate manner based on the results of our investigation,” the school said Thursday morning.
“We are unable to provide further comment on this situation due to state and federal data privacy laws that protect student information. However, it is important for our community to know that RPS strives to create a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds and is committed to providing a learning environment that is free from discrimination. We want you to know that we have additional staff at the school today, to help support our students. The social media post is not a reflection of what our district students and staff believes and feels. We will use this as an opportunity to talk, educate, and grow as a community as we work to become even stronger and more inclusive to all students.”
The Pine Island school district has also issued a statment.
"The Pine Island Schools recently became aware of a racially-charged image that is circulating on social media allegedly involving a student enrolled at our school. The district is investigating the image that was posted on the eve of October 31st. It's the absolute goal of the Pine Island School District to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all our students. We are committed to being inclusive to all students and will use this opportunity to educate, grow and strengthen our district. In no way is this social media post a representation or reflection of the beliefs or values of the district or community."
The Rochester Police Department says a report was filed with them over the incident but it is not being investigated as a crime, as of now.
"At this time with the information that I have, there is no criminal issue regarding the photo,” says Captain Casey Moilanen. “Although the photo is horrible and it’s not something that should be shown in any social media or any place else for that matter, it doesn’t make the photo a crime in and of itself. If it’s being used to intimidate and harass somebody that may be a different story. If we do get reports of a crime that may be involved with this photo, we will investigate it and look into it, but with the information that I have at this point, there’s nothing criminal involved in this particular case that would allow us to investigate it. It’s distasteful and it’s a horrible picture, it doesn’t mean that it’s a crime to have a picture like this.”
A joint statement was issued from the Southeast Social Justice Coalition, the Diversity Council, Rochester for Justice, CIDI, NAACP, UU Racial Justice Task Group, Cure, Southeast Minnesota Area Labor Council, Olmsted County Human Rights Commission and Sierra Club North Star Chapter.
“Both collectively as a broad coalition of organizations and as individual members of this community, we condemn without qualification the behavior of the students who dressed as KKK members and in blackface for Halloween in Rochester last night. We assert that we cannot continue to be "shocked and saddened" by these types of incidents without recourse. There is no room in our community or in our shared future for racism, hatred, discrimination, or belligerent ignorance. We will act. There is space now for each of us to step up and interrupt those things happening around us that perpetuate these divisive attitudes and behaviors. To truly make our community a safe and welcoming place for everyone, we all have a responsibility to recognize and interrupt the words, actions, and attitudes around us that perpetuate white supremacy. We pledge to take ownership of the intolerances that keep us as a community from reaching our fullest, most inclusive potential. We will find allies and supports when we need them. We will lift, together, now,” the statement said.
Rochester Army Recruting Sargent Breckenridge issued this statement.
“Because the questionable conduct of these three individuals is inconsistent with Army values, they will no longer continue the process to become U.S. Soldiers. The Army does not tolerate inappropriate behavior by anyone within our ranks, including recruits who have signed a contract to join in the future. It is important for everyone on our team to live and demonstrate the Army values every day.”