UPDATE: Rochester schools investigate 'racially charged' costumes

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Rochester Public Schools is investigating a social media post allegedly showing three high school students dressed in racially charged costumes.

An image of three white teenagers appeared online and was widely circulated Wednesday night. Two are wearing mock Ku Klux Klan hoods and one is in black face makeup.

The photo was not taken on school grounds, Rochester district officials confirmed.

On Friday, a school official announced that the John Marshall Student Diversity Council would facilitate its first ever Stronger Together event on Monday afternoon. The purpose of the event — which will feature a multimedia presentation and student speeches focused on individual aspects of inclusivity — is to provide students with the opportunity to have dialogue with their peers and to create a more inclusive John Marshall, according to school officials.

On Thursday, Jacqueline Kyle, whose younger brother attends John Marshall High School, pulled a screenshot of the photo from her brother’s Snapchat feed and shared her screenshot on Facebook. Her brother identified some of the students as fellow John Marshall students. The photo was widely circulated from there.


"I wanted to make people aware that this is indeed happening in our own city," Kyle said. "Hopefully this will set an example for people who are openly racist to reconsider their choices before acting upon it and hopefully they’ll educate themselves and not be so insensitive."

Schools Superintendent Michael Muñoz released a written statement to parents on Thursday saying the district is investigating the "racially charged image."

"We want to ensure you, and our community, that the district will respond in an appropriate manner based on the results of our investigation," Muñoz said in the statement.

The district was unable to provide more details or further comment about the incident or the students themselves due to privacy laws and policies, he added.

A joint statement by a coalition of social justice groups condemned the actions in the photo and called for action against white supremacy and racism.

"We cannot continue to be ‘shocked and saddened’ by these types of incidents without recourse," the statement said. "There is no room in our community or in our shared future for racism, hatred, discrimination or belligerent ignorance."

Pine Island Schools Superintendent Tamara Champa also released a statement to the Pine Island Schools committee. One of the three individuals in the image reportedly is a Pine Island student. Champa’s statement said that the district is investigating.

"It’s the absolute goal of the Pine Island District to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all our students," Champa wrote. "We are committed to being inclusive to all students, and will use this opportunity to educate, grow, and strengthen our district."


A spokeswoman with the 3rd Recruiting Brigade also released a statement in relation to the incident stating that, "because the questionable conduct of these three individuals is inconsistent with Army values, they will no longer continue the process to become U.S. soldiers.

"The Army does not tolerate inappropriate behavior by anyone within our ranks, to include recruits who have signed a contract to join in the future," Marlene Bland wrote in the statement. "It is important for everyone on our team to live and demonstrate the Army values every day."

Bland did not disclose if the action applied to one, two or all three of the teens.

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