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Jury Awards $1 Million Verdict to Students Expelled Over Blackface That Wasn't
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By Anthony Haddad
Published 3 weeks ago on
May 8, 2024

Two students who were expelled from a private high school over a misinterpreted green acne mask photo mistaken for blackface won a $1 million verdict. (Shutterstock)

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A jury has delivered a $1 million verdict against a private high school in Mountain View that expelled two students over a photo of them wearing dark green acne masks that were mistaken for blackface.

Holden Hughes and Aaron Hartley will each receive $500,000 from St. Francis High School, along with reimbursement for their tuition, which totaled $70,000 for their three years at the school.

Their lawyer, Krista Baughman, noted that this ruling expands protections previously mandated by a California Supreme Court decision for students at private universities to now include private high schools, ensuring fair procedures in disciplinary actions.

St. Francis High School spokesperson Jamie Perkins disagreed with the jury’s decision, stating they are considering legal options, including an appeal, as there’s no legal precedent for such a claim at a high school level. The school aims to focus on its educational mission and Catholic values.

The jury, comprising 12 members, deliberated for three days after a 20-day trial in downtown San Jose, where both Hughes and Hartley testified. The controversial photo, taken during a 2017 sleepover, caused a stir during the Black Lives Matter movement, and led to swift disciplinary action from the school in 2020.

The lawsuit highlighted how the misinterpreted photo affected the students’ lives, including the loss of friendships, sleep, and their final year of high school.

Despite the legal process taking four years, the families said they felt vindicated, emphasizing that schools should protect and nurture students rather than sacrificing them for public relations.

Read more about this story by going to Palo Alto Daily Post.

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Anthony Haddad,
Multimedia Journalist
Anthony W. Haddad, who graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with his undergraduate degree and has an MBA at Fresno State, is the Swiss Army knife of GV Wire. He writes stories, manages social media, and represents the organization on the ground.

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