Seaholm administrators and Birmingham police are investigating after a note with racial references was a discovered in a Seaholm High School classroom Monday.
According to Seaholm principal Deanna Lancaster, a note containing racial overtones and referencing three Seaholm staff members and one student — all black — was found in a pile of papers on the floor of a classroom Monday morning.
The note, Lancaster said, references the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, a black teenager who was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Several of those targeted in the note have the same last name as Martin.
According to Birmingham Schools spokeswoman Marcia Wilkinson, the police did not interpret the note as an actual threat, but the school plans on taking the case just as seriously as if it did.
Lancaster said Monday afternoon that the school is aggressively investigating the matter and has filed a report with the Birmingham Police Department. At this point, Lancaster said, the school has several leads.
"We recognize in light of last year's incident that we do not want the Seaholm student body to be viewed in this manner," Lancaster said. "It is very disappointing that someone would write this. It is very disappointing that one student would attempt to paint our students in this light. We really believed we had learned and grown from the events from last spring."
Last April, a racist note was discovered in a boys restroom at Seaholm, the first of several racist notes eventually discovered by Seaholm staff and students.
Then-senior Courtney Thomas, a black student, later admitted to writing the first note, claiming he had been bullied because of his race. Thomas is currently serving probation and fulfilling community service hours after pleading guilty to disturbing the peace last August.
Lancaster put out a plea to Seaholm students Monday afternoon, asking anyone with information on the note to come forward. According to Wilkinson, Lancaster asked students who read any derogatory references, particularly on Facebook or Twitter, to notify Seaholm staff members immediately.
"It's very unfortunate that this occurred," Wilkinson said. "It's very upsetting. We're very concerned about this and definitely want to get to the bottom of it."
Wilkinson said the racist notes discovered last spring not attributed to Thomas are still under investigation by the district. No new information has been brought forward since Thomas was suspended last May, Wilkinson said, though the investigation is open.
On Twitter Monday, students and community members were incredulous following the announcement:
- @Sydney VanHulle: "Seriously seaholm??? Stop with the racism #honestly
- @Danicea: "Another racist incident at seaholm? Really? Ridiculous"
- @Evana Makhoul: "come on seaholm .. where's your class"
- @Austin Filbin: "I couldn't imagine going to any other high school in the world. I love Seaholm, but this (stuff) gotta stop. We need to check our culture."
Jamie Brooks, president of Birmingham's African American Family Network, said the incident is unfortunate but he believes it to be isolated and not related to the spate of racist notes discovered last spring.
Brooks said since last spring, much of the dialogue among the African American community in Birmingham has been positive.
"After the incidents of last spring, all the stakeholders came together: parents, administrators and students," he said. "We're trying to be proactive and implement training. You really can't get enough training since we still have these isolated incidents. But we're working toward a solution."
Looking forward, Wilkinson said Seaholm plans to address the incident head on during a planned assembly on April 17. At 7 p.m. that day, Seaholm will host Rachel's Challenge, a program for students and community members on bullying and respect.
Brooks said several schools in the Birmingham Public School district, including Seaholm High School, have No Place for Hate movements — a program through the Anti-Defamation League and an opportunity for students to pledge their opposition to bullying and hate speech.
"No Place for Hate is a slogan that means just what it says to the students who commit to it," he said.
Still, Lancaster said she's disappointed that the Seaholm community has to deal with racism for a second year in a row.
"Again, we are so disappointed that we are again faced with a challenge that is damaging to members of our Seaholm family," she said.
Anyone with information of this incident is encouraged to contact Seaholm administrators or the Birmingham Police Department at 248-530-1889.