California Students Expelled for 'Blackface' Awarded $1M

Photos of them in acne masks went viral in 2020
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2024 1:00 AM CDT
California Students Expelled for 'Blackface' Awarded $1M
   (Getty Images / Zolnierek)

In 2020, two California high school students were expelled from their Bay Area Catholic school after photos from 2017 emerged in which they were accused of donning blackface. The photos went viral amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody, and other students and parents at St. Francis High School pressured the school to discipline the boys for what they saw as a racist stunt, Fox News reports. The students and their parents sued the school, saying what the boys have on in the photo, taken when they were 14 and at a sleepover, is actually a green acne mask that darkened and appeared black, the Palo Alto Daily Post reports. This week, a jury awarded them more than $1 million in total.

They were awarded $500,000 each, plus $70,000 in tuition reimbursement, on a finding that the school's disciplinary process was unfair. The jury rejected the lawsuit's claims that the students were defamed and had their free speech rights violated. "Our primary goal was to clear (our clients') names," their attorney says. "It was quite clear the jury believed these were innocent face masks. They are young kids, their internet trail is going to haunt them for the next 60 years. Now they don't have to worry about that." The school says it disagrees with the verdict regarding its disciplinary procedures, and is considering an appeal. (More California stories.)

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