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Grosse Pointe South students suspended over slur photo

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A group of Grosse Pointe South High School students was suspended this week over a controversial photo posted on social media that officials say showed them with racial slurs scrawled on their bodies.

Administrators learned of the picture, which they said was taken off campus, over the weekend, and started contacting students and family, according to a letter posted on the school website Monday and signed by Principal Moussa Hamka as well as other officials there.

In a photo that has been shared on Twitter and Facebook, two girls and a boy are seen lifting their shirts to reveal the N-word written across their stomachs in dark letters. Another girl did not have a racial slur but had a message on her leg supporting marijuana.

School officials did not identify the students photographed. However, they wrote: “While the school cannot regulate off-campus activities, we will not be silent in the face of racially intolerant language. The Student Code of Conduct does task administration with monitoring student behavior that impacts our learning environment, even if that behavior occurs outside of the school day,” Hamka and the school officials wrote.

After an investigation, all four students in the picture snapped at a house party were suspended for five days starting Monday, said Gary Niehaus, the Grosse Pointe Public School System superintendent.

The group met with the principal and apologized for the incident, he said. Meanwhile, two other students also were suspended for threatening other classmates about the situation, Niehaus said.

“It’s a very rare occurrence that we have this type of thing happen with Grosse Pointe South High School,” he said. “We don’t tolerate it. We don’t condone it. ... Hopefully we’ve all learned a lesson out of this process.”

In addition, administrators organized a dialogue with the student group Black Awareness Society for Education to “launch a healing process as we move forward.”

The student group said in a message shared in the letter: “We have come together and are committed to a unified response that leads to awareness, acceptance and education. We want to send a clear message that hateful language and violence are never acceptable. This meeting left us optimistic that we can come together in unity.”

As word about the photo spread across social media, reaction was swift.

“Grosse Pointe South is a mess SMH (shaking my head),” one user wrote on Twitter. “I’m happy I graduated.”

Another tweeted: “Grosse Pointe South at its finest.”