Caney Valley school district addresses alleged student recreation of racist photo

Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 5:28 PM CST
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CANEY, Kan. (KWCH) - A school district in southeast Kansas is held a board meeting Wednesday night after a group of high school students are accused of recreating a racist picture in the school’s gym.

The three students involved go to Caney Valley High School in Montgomery County. Ahead of Wednesday’s board meeting, Eyewitness News spoke with the Caney Valley Public School superintendent and the woman who posted the photo in question to Facebook, calling for change.

The three students face disciplinary action after a picture of them in the high school gym emerged (left). Some students said the three pictured recreated a racist image of someone in a Ku Klux Klan hood with two others dressed in blackface (right). That original image had a racist caption, indicating the two people in blackface had been hunted.

The two pictures were posted together on social media, side by side. Caney Valley Superintendent Blake Vargas said administrators were first alerted by a student who was a recipient of the photo.

Three students at Caney Valley High School in Caney, Kan. have been accused of recreating a...
Three students at Caney Valley High School in Caney, Kan. have been accused of recreating a racist image of someone in a Ku Klux Klan hood with two others dressed in blackface.(Photo shared on social media by former student calling for change)

“They immediately went to administration there and let them know the obviously, terrible, horrible nature of it. And immediately an investigation began into how this came about and why this was created,” Vargas said.

Recent Caney Valley High School graduate Arianna Gwinn said she shared the picture on her Facebook page. She’s a mixed-race woman who wants to see changes made.

“Understand that everybody needs to learn about Black culture and everything like that because if we did, the kids wouldn’t think it’s as funny to know what some of the Black ancestors went through,” Gwinn said.

Wednesday night’s board meeting was to address the incident and current policies. Vargas said federal law “prohibits the district from disclosing specific punishments regarding students at the conclusion of an investigation.”

“We are trying as educators, that we do our part to educate everyone how hurtful this is,” Vargas said. “No matter what the intent behind it is, it’s absolutely horrific.”

At the meeting, board members talked about what needed done to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. The school board approved an immediate review of the district’s handbook and policies, saying this is not going to be a one-day issue, but a multi-phase approach. The board said it will work to get a committee together and will be working with a senior diversity officer from Pittsburgh State University.

“I think given the circumstances, it went as well as it could and I was proud that the board reacted as quick as they did in a swift fashion,” Vargas said. “And after tonight, their district action was to make sure we look at all areas of racial equality and inclusion in our entire district.”

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