2 Expelled Saint Francis High School Students Get $1 Million in Blackface Lawsuit

The boys were expelled in 2020 after an old photo of them wearing acne face masks began circulating during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement.

2 Expelled Saint Francis High School Students Get $1 Million in Blackface Lawsuit

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Two students who were expelled from their Mountain View high school in 2020 after they were accused of wearing blackface have been awarded $1 million in a lawsuit against the district.

The former Saint Francis High School students, now 21, alleged the district was in breach of an oral contract and did not give them due process before expelling them for a picture taken three years prior at a sleepover, the LA Times reports. The photo, which began circulating in June 2020 during the Black Lives Matter movement, depicts the two plaintiffs and a third person wearing green acne face masks, which were interpreted as blackface, according to the suit.

The suit says the accusations emerged amid “a series of racially charged scandals perpetrated by a few SFHS students and/or recent alumni” that were “plaguing the SFHS community,” and that the students became the “poster children of racism.” The ex-students, referred to as A.H. and H.H. in the lawsuit, sued the school, its president, and a parent of one of the students.

“[H.H. and A.H. had absolutely nothing to do with these horrible acts of racism. And yet [SFHS and the other defendants] took it upon themselves to use the innocent and wholly unrelated photograph of the boys to make the malicious and utterly false accusation that the boys had been engaging in ‘blackface,’ and to recklessly assert that the photograph was ‘another example’ of racism at SFHS,” the complain continues.

Saint Francis allegedly told the boys they had to voluntarily withdraw from the school or face immediate expulsion ahead of what was to be their senior year. They weren’t offered a hearing and the school didn’t consider any evidence, the suit claims.

A jury awarded each former student $500,000 and tuition reimbursement totaling around $70,000. The students and their parents originally sought $20 million in damages.

“This case is significant not only for its groundbreaking effect on all private high schools in California, which are now legally required to provide fair procedure to students before punishing or expelling them,” Krista Lee Baughman, the former students’ attorney, wrote in a statement to USA TODAY. “The jury rightly confirmed that St. Francis High School’s procedures were unfair to our clients and that the school is not above the law.”

Saint Francis officials wrote in a statement that they “respectfully disagree with the jury’s conclusion as to the lesser claim regarding the fairness of our disciplinary review process.” They also said they are “exploring legal options,” including appealing the verdict.

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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