Photos surface of students with possible Lowcountry connection wearing racially offensive costumes

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) — Images of a few Baltimore private school students rocking racist Halloween costumes have surfaced on social media and there may be a Lowcountry connection.

One photo shared on social media shows a teenage boy and girl with what look like prison uniforms with a caption which features the N word. In another photo, another young man has a prison uniform with “Freddie Gray” on the back of it.

Officials at both Gilman School and Roland Park Country School say they are taking the situation seriously.

Here a joint statement that was released from Gilman School and Roland Park Country School, according to WBAL:

We recently learned of a set of photos, one of which includes a Gilman School student and Roland Park Country School student, that contain highly inappropriate captions, and that are spreading fast through social media. As we quickly try to learn the facts, here is what we know:

The two photographs were taken at different functions and combined together in one social media post.

The young man shown in the picture with the young lady, is not the same young man who is seen in the single photo bearing the name “Freddie Gray” on his outfit.

The persons who wrote the captions seen in the pictures are not students at either one of our schools.

The young man who took the photo of the two minors is not a student at either one of our schools.

The young man who combined the two photos and posted them on social media is not a student at either one of our schools.

Know that we take any situation involving our students seriously, and this is no exception. Please understand that many involved in this situation are minors and we respectfully remind you of this as we work through the details.

WARNING: Some may find the images offensive:

Although the statement claims the students don’t attend either school, social media says otherwise.

With the social media post saying two of the students involved are College of Charleston students, this caused the President of Black Student Union at C of C to issue the following statement:

To Whom It May Concern:

As students of the College of Charleston, we aim to to be in an environment that is conducive to learning because it is safe, engaging, diverse, healthy, and secure. As of right now, many students of color and others do not feel this way due to the continuous acts of prejudice, violence, and white supremacy on our campus, as well as in the Charleston community. Each year we are reminded of white supremacy and violence here at The College. A few of these acts include the racially charged shooting of nine innocent members of Mother Emanuel AME Church, a supporter of the Confederate Flag being the face of The College, continual displays of Confederate flags around campus, and being survivors of racially motivated hate speech and actions. We desire to feel safe and welcome in every realm, but unfortunately that has not been the case.

As we all know, costumes are a tradition of Halloween. There are many costume ideas such as animals or cartoon characters. Although this may seem obvious, it has come to our attention that there are students at The College who do not understand this concept and have rather created costumes that mock dead Black bodies and Black culture all while using racial slurs. Sam Weinick and Gianna Trombetta are responsible for these actions. Photos are attached below for reference.

Students are seen wearing orange jumpsuits assumed to represent those in jail. Sam Wenick is shown wearing the name “Freddie Gray” on his back with the caption, “Ur going to jail tonight, which was posted onto Snapchat by Gianna Trombetta (her username appears in the left hand corner). There is a subsequent photo with a student who has not been identified yet, but this student is pictured with “N****” written on his back. Not only is this behavior disrespectful and demeaning to Black students here at The College, but it is also dehumanizing and mocks the Americans who are victims of police brutality, and those who are grieving the lives lost due to the blatant lack of respect towards Black bodies.

If you do not know, on April 19, 2015, 25 year old, Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr. became a deceased victim of police brutality. On April 12, 2015, Mr. Gray was detained by Baltimore Police Department and transported in a police van. Unfortunately, Mr. Gray never made it to the police department. Instead he was transported to a trauma center where they attempted to treat him for spinal cord injuries that he sustained while in custody. Six officers were linked to the incident and suspended without pay. His death was ruled a homicide. The six officers were indicted on various charges to include second degree murder. None of the officers were found guilty on their charges as some charges were dropped. The death of Mr. Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr. was detrimental and causes emotional distress amongst the Black communities and those who understand the outcomes of continuous acts of police brutality in America.

As students of the College of Charleston we come to you in solidarity to ask that the students involved in this incident be reprimanded through indefinite expulsion. These students actions negatively reflect The College amongst the many other negatives it causes for students who attend and pay tuition. More than 500 Americans have lost their lives to police brutality this year alone. The actions taken by these students are a mockery of these lives and those who are grieving. The death of Mr. Gray is similar to the death of a loved one. Many of us feel this way and believe that the actions of these students is immoral and must be taken seriously. These are unacceptable behaviors that should not be tolerated. In these times, the disrespectful actions committed by these students cannot merely occur out of sheer ignorance. They occur because some people have a genuine disrespect for Black people and feel that Black culture is an open market of various elements to pick from and discard after use. Feeling safe is not being subjected to being viewed as objects and costumes that can be used to ridicule already marginalized communities.

We, as a student body, are concerned about the values The College of Charleston upholds. We acknowledge that there is a need for change in these values. We are seeking dignified actions against acts of white supremacy, as they are necessary for all to understand that appropriate actions that should be taken in these very serious matters such as this. This is not a matter of agreement or disagreement on a controversial topic, but rather one of values, morals, respect, and dignity. These actions should not be seen as conducive to the values that the College of Charleston aims to uphold and therefore should not be defended, nor allowed and subsequently reprimanded.

As well, additional action has been taken up on this matter to include the notification of distinguished news outlets.

Best,
Lanasa Clarkson
President of Black Student Union

The African American Studies Program issued a statement:

The African American Studies Program at the College of Charleston stands in solidarity with the Black Student Union and other student organizations to insist that the administration take immediate action against the students involved in any and all acts that aim to intimidate and make mockery of the students, faculty, and staff of color on this campus.

President of the College of Charleston Glenn McConnell also issued a statement.

Dear Campus Community,

Over the weekend, College officials were made aware of a social media post involving one or more members of our campus community that contained a Halloween costume and messaging that was racially insensitive. This whole situation is very painful to many people, and I am extremely disappointed that something like this is connected to our university.

In no way does this behavior reflect our College of Charleston core values, especially as it relates to diversity, community and respect for the individual student. Our education and our campus community are about lifting each other up, not tearing each other down.

Related to this specific off-campus incident, the College’s Division of Student Affairs and the Department of Public Safety are conducting a full investigation. If we determine that the institution’s student code of conduct or any other college policies have been violated, we will take appropriate action. That being said, federal privacy laws limit the amount of information that can be shared regarding our ongoing investigation and its ultimate outcome.

For those students who have been impacted by this incident or other hurtful experiences, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of several resources on campus:
• The Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services
• The Office of Counseling and Substance Abuse Services
• The Office of Institutional Diversity
• The Residence Life staff.

With Halloween taking place tomorrow, if you plan to celebrate it, I encourage you to think about your party themes and costume choices and the impression they may have on others. If you have the slightest doubt if your costume/party theme is insensitive, be smart and don’t do it.

Racism and intolerance of any kind have no place on our campus – and in our world.

Sincerely,
Glenn

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