Police are investigating a High School that has a troubling Instagram page depicting Black students as “slaves”.
Jeremy Roche, the Fitchburg high school’s principal, told parents Friday that the school was aware of an account known as “fhsslaves,” which posted pictures depicting Black students from the school.
Roche said: “Today, FHS administration was informed of a disturbing Instagram page entitled “fhsslaves” which depicts black or African-American students in a variety of pictures posted to the site.”
“This site is not only one that is wrong and divisive, but also potentially a hate crime and illegal. Upon learning of the page, school administration reported it as a hate crime within the process that Instagram has created for that purpose,” he added.
After learning about the account, Roche said the school reported it to the social media app as a hate crime and notified the Fitchburg Police Department.
Students said the page was live for 18 hours before the creator took it down.The page contained a “variety of pictures” of black students. It was private and could only be viewed by accounts approved as followers.
Chief Ernest F. Martineau, Fitchburg police, confirmed via e-mail Tuesday that his detectives are investigating. He said no further information was available.
Roche wrote in his email to parents: “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.”
Emi Pasteorino, a 16-year-old student who saw the contents of the Instagram account and spoke to WHDH with his mother’s permission, said that its creator “made one post and then they deleted it later because it started to spread news.”
Pasteorino explained: “People were finding out and telling the teachers. I don’t think it was about targeting black people. I think it was just supposed to be a joke. Obviously, it wasn’t a funny joke.”
Kirsten Dame, a Fitchburg high school senior, who noticed the account in her friend suggestions, said she saw it quickly removed from Instagram. She said: “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”.
Gabriel Luciano, a Fitchburg senior, said the situation has left students feeling uncomfortable. He said: “It’s weird for you to just take pictures of people and post it and just say stuff about them”.
Robert Jokela, Fitchburg Public Schools Superintendent, also addressed the matter in a separate statement posted to the system’s official Facebook page. Jokela called the Instagram page “unacceptable” and said school officials “contacted the proper authorities immediately” as well as students and families.
“Fitchburg Public Schools’ goal is to provide a welcoming and belonging environment for all students. This matter is being addressed currently and we are unable to comment further at this time. The privacy of our students is paramount,” he added.
More than 70 percent of the 1,200 students at the high school located about 50 miles west of Boston are non-white. Nearly half are Hispanic, 7.8 percent are black and 8 percent identify as mixed-race, according to US News.
News of the Instagram page comes as other Massachusetts high schools are grappling with racist incidents.
Last month, it was revealed that the Danvers hockey team engaged in a hazing ritual where players were struck in the face with plastic s*x toys until they shouted the N-word, and a video containing racist hate speech caused a fight at Quincy High School in November as well.
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