A group of high school students in Sewell, New Jersey have reportedly been reprimanded for wearing Confederate flag shirts and harassing black students with racial slurs.
During the Gloucester County Institute of Technology’s Spirit Week, which began on November 1, several students decided to hold a silent protest on what was scheduled to be “America Day” at the school. Instead of wearing red, white and blue, students wore black to protest the racism and demand equality at their school, NJ.com reports.
Their protest stirred controversy on social media as some students criticized it for drawing attention away from Spirit Week. One student then urged his Snapchat followers at the school to wear the Confederate flag on Thursday in response.
Members of the African American Culture Club gathered screenshots of the post and reported it to school authorities and sent a statement to local NAACP chapter president Loretta Winters. The statement also notes that during the backlash, black students were called derogatory names and told to “go back to Africa.”
“Many have been called the N-word to their face,” the students said in the statement. “Someone was told if they don’t like discrimination, they should bleach their skin. Others have been spit on.”
Principal James Dundee sent a letter regarding the incident to parents on Friday.
“The School District and the School Administration want to be very clear that there is no tolerance for prejudicial comments, remarks, racism or hatred in our school,” Dundee wrote. “All students found to be involved in the incident and in the events leading up to the incident, have been disciplined per the student code of conduct and several Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying reports have been filed with the district’s HIB Coordinator.”
He added that the superintendent met with Winters to work on addressing racial issues at the school and fostering an inclusive environment. Winters told NJ.com that she felt the school was “everything within their power to make sure that all their policies and procedures are enforced” and that administrators committed to racial equality. She added that she hopes the students who wore the flag understand how it can be offensive.
“The Confederate flag is to the black community as the Swastika is to the Jewish community,” Winters said. “It’s the flag used by the KKK, and they’re a terrorist group. People need to be educated on what the Confederate flag stands for and what it means. ... How do you support that? How do you support any terrorist group?”
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.