A New England community is dealing with the aftermath of racialized cyberbullying by way of a recently created (and deactivated) Instagram account called “fhsslaves.”
The profile, titled to invoke the bigoted memory of America’s shameful past, featured pictures of Black and African-American students at Fitchburg High School and is being investigated by police.
WCVB reported that Jeremy Roche, the principal of the school, reached out to parents via email on Friday, Dec. 10 to alert them of the page. He told them that the school’s administration was working to get it pulled down and had reached out to Instagram to report the profile as a hate crime.
It is reported that within 18 hours the page was deactivated.
He wrote, “Ultimately, these types of social media sites serve to divide and tear apart the positive, welcoming, inclusive school culture that we are working so hard to create here at FHS.”
Roche also notified the Fitchburg Police Department, who are now investigating the crime, and released the following statement, “Detectives from our department are working closely with school officials on this issue.”
The Fitchburg Public School Superintendent Robert Jokela shared a statement on Facebook that acknowledged the incident, calling it “unacceptable.” The statement read in part, “Fitchburg Public Schools’ goal is to provide a welcoming and belonging environment for all students.”
Jokela and Roche are not the only ones upset by the offensive social media profile, so are students. One student, who is a senior at the high school, told NBC Boston that he was “disgusted.”
Another Fitchburg senior added, “They’re taking pictures of Black people, posting them as slaves, and I’m like, OK Jesus. I don’t know who would do that, but it’s terrible.”
“It’s kind of embarrassing for us because we’re better than this,” said another student.
While Thomas would like to think that Americans are better than this, a recent uptick in racialized violence in Massachusetts in middle schools, high schools, and colleges campuses say differently.
Last month the Boston Globe released their findings that players from the Danvers High School varsity boys’ hockey team not only experienced derogatory hazing and harassment based on race and sexuality but that the schools deliberately “concealed” the allegations for 16 months.
One of the claims is that the team had a group chat that regularly posted bigoted memes and messages.
Massachusetts higher-learning institutions like Mount Holyoke College, Saint John Paul II School on Cape Cod and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have all reported incidents of anti-Semitic or racist graffiti and messaging on their campuses, proving that Fitchburg is not alone in dealing with this challenge of intolerance and diversity.
According to United States Census data, Blacks make up 5 percent of the demographic. Whites total in at 62.8 percent and Latinos are the second-largest population at 28.8.
Roche has affirmed to the parents that he and his administration will do everything they can “to stop these types of social media sites and divisive forces” and are 100 percent committed to making everyone feel safe and welcomed.
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