New York – A total of four students were expelled from a Long Island high school following their participation in two separate racially-motivated incidents, officials said.
Brother Gary Cregan, the principal at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, said Wednesday he expelled two senior males after they flagrantly walked into a school-sponsored sporting event on April 9, with the Confederate flag draped over their shoulders.
Additionally, two sophomore girls were expelled for a separate incident involving a blackface photograph they posted of themselves via social media on Friday night, Newsday reported.
“Two other students blatantly disregarded the principal’s request to discontinue the use of social media to inflame discrimination in the school community by displaying an inappropriate picture and comment,” the school said in a news release.
It is uncertain if the two separated incidents are related.
Brother Cregan said, “I have to judge intent and action, and the action alone, irregardless of intent, was, in my thinking, pretty heinous.”
Students and parents alike were shocked and revolted by the classless disrespect displayed by the the two boys at the sporting event.
“The African-American students who immediately saw it really exercised heroic restraint, and fortunately a teacher immediately confiscated the flag and took the students out of the gym,” Brother Cregan said.
After the two incidents Brother Cregan was motived to pen a letter to the parents saying the use of any symbols “designed to revive past injustices or to inflame discrimination or racial intolerance, is completely unacceptable and profoundly offensive,” Newsday reported.
The principal said, in his eyes, the flag depicts a strong symbol of racism.
“I find it just very hard to even imagine why any student in 2014 would even consider or think that a Confederate flag would be anything other than a symbol of hate,” Brother Cregan said.
The majority of the student body as well as their parents were in complete and total agreement.
“It represents slavery to us. It represents racism and prejudice to us,” parent JuJu Quinnonez added. “Believe me, I am all for freedom of speech but to have someone come in to school with that flag draped around their shoulder — I’m not really sure what the intent was.”
Undeniably, there were critics who felt the students should not be punished for displaying their First Amendment rights, however, Brother Cregan said there are limitations, and he felt these students vastly crossed the line with their actions.
“I certainly think this particular symbol of hate falls in the category of something that should be excised from our culture,” Brother Cregan said.
Because St. Anthony’s is a private Catholic school, it isn’t subject to First Amendment limitations, even so, the New York Civil Liberties Union has come forward, saying all people should be able to express their views freely, even the offensive ones.
“Our motto is more speech, not censorship or punishment,” NYCLU Director Donna Lieberman told Brown. “Helping children understand the impact of this patently offensive expressive activity.”
St. Anthony’s High School was closed on Wednesday in celebration of Holy Week.