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Investigation Into Racist Photo Complete, Names and Disciplinary Action Under Wraps

Hidden Oaks Middle School.jpg
Image courtesy Hidden Oaks Middle School Facebook page
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The photo in question shows a number of students holding up letters that spell out a racial slur.

Martin Country - Thursday May 19, 2022: The Martin County School District has completed its investigation of a racist photo taken by students at the Hidden Oaks Middle School in Palm, however the names of those involved, and what if any discipline was taken against them, will remain under wraps.

The photo in question shows a number of students holding up letters that spell out a racial slur. It was widely circulated on social media this past Monday. On Tuesday the school district launched an investigation.

Martin County School District Superintendent Dr. John Millay issued a statement Thursday evening saying "we are extremely saddened to confirm that the photographic (sic) is authentic and was not photoshopped or otherwise manipulated. "

School surveillance video was reviewed along with metadata from the social media post of the photo. The students were identified and they were interviewed along with the principal and the teacher "whose class was used to create the photograph". Dr. Millay said that "no school personnel were involved in or knowledgeable about the students’ planning, photographing and posting of the picture on social media".

Federal and state law prohibit the release of the student names as well as any disciplinary action taken against them, but Dr. Millay said "the District will address this incident consistent with its adopted policies as stated in the Code of Student Conduct".

"We are deeply aware of the hurt and pain this photograph has caused our community, especially our Black American residents and students," said Dr. Millay. "This incident is in complete opposition to our values and the ideals that we instill in our students."

Counseling is being provided "to any Hidden Oaks Middle School student in need."

Read the FULL statement from Martin County School District Superintendent Millay below:

The following message is being sent on behalf of Dr. John D. Millay, Superintendent of Schools:

The Martin County School District has finished its investigation into the inappropriate, racist photograph that was posted earlier this week. Our investigation included interviewing all students involved in the incident, the principal, the teacher whose class was used to create the photograph and others, as well as reviewing the metadata involved in the photograph and surveillance video from the school.

As we shared earlier this week, we are extremely saddened to confirm that the photographic is authentic and was not photoshopped or otherwise manipulated. We have confirmed that no school personnel were involved in or knowledgeable about the students’ planning, photographing and posting of the picture on social media.

Federal and state law prohibit the District from disclosing student education records, which include any specific student’s identification or any discipline imposed. We assure our community, however, that the District will address this incident consistent with its adopted policies as stated in the Code of Student Conduct.

We are deeply aware of the hurt and pain this photograph has caused our community, especially our Black American residents and students. As we have said previously, this incident is in complete opposition to our values and the ideals that we instill in our students.

We are providing counseling to any Hidden Oaks Middle School student in need and are working on longer-range plans to work with community partners to help heal the harm this incident has caused. We wholeheartedly understand the crucial importance of nurturing a continued dialogue in our community, specifically including our students, to create and foster a learning environment and community free of bigotry, hate and racism.