Students protest after fight at high school in Tinley Park linked to video of ‘culturally insensitive act’

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TINLEY PARK, Ill. — A group of students protested in Tinley Park after a fight inside a high school that stemmed from a video shared with students.

On Thursday, about 60 students gathered outside of Victor J. Andrew High School to protest what they said is unfair treatment by the school administration and to condemn intolerance at the school.

The principal confirmed there was a physical altercation at the school Wednesday. In a letter to families, Principal Bob Nolting said the situation is believed to be a result of a year-old social media post containing a video showing a "culturally insensitive act" by one of the students. Nolting said a video was AirDropped to many students, so its origins are unclear.

The racial tension at the school was simmering when a video posted on social media showed a white student in blackface. Things then boiled over when white students allegedly burned a Quran.

The school has not confirmed that a Quran was burned, but several students and parents said that’s what led to the fight, and subsequent suspensions of some students, but according to protesters discipline wasn’t equal.

One student, Alaa Emeria, said three students got suspended, but said the white students involved received no punishment.

After the alleged incidents, there were more postings on social media and threats that someone would bring a gun to school. Rumors of a weapon turned out to be unfounded.

On Thursday, the school’s principal said more police were on hand and about 400 hundred students stayed home amidst the threats.

“We are not immune to the hate and intolerance in our world," the principal said in a voicemail to students and parents. "That said, I know we can address this and celebrate all of our kids, no matter their race, religion, gender, or orientation. As we continue to work through yesterday’s events, please know that we are committed to moving forward with open dialogue among our students staff and community.”

The principal said the students involved in the fight have been disciplined. He also urged parents to talk to their children about respecting others.

However, some parents said these issues have been going on for weeks. One parent, Tamika Howard, said it’ll take more than a re-assuring voicemail to reduce the charged atmosphere.

"The school is taking mild baby steps to a situation that needs more action now," she said.

Howard said students are not acting out just because they want to be a problem.

"They're responding and reacting to things that are occurring," she said. "You can't keep pushing kids against the wall and expect them not to come out fighting."

Students said they want administrators to host an assembly talking about discrimination and they want the school to be held accountable and create meaningful change following the recent fight.

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