TINLEY PARK, Ill. — After a second day of student rallies at a high school in suburban Tinley Park, school officials issued a statement to “set the record straight” amid racial tension and rumors being spread throughout the school.
Victor J. Andrew High School's Principal Bob Nolting confirmed there was a physical altercation in the school's hallway Wednesday, that was captured on video. Since the incident, school officials said there have been several rumors spreading stemming from the altercation. On Friday, District 230 Supt. James Gay and Nolting issued a statement to detail what exactly occurred.
The statement said the altercation, that involved 10 students, on Wednesday stemmed from a video that was posted on social media over a year ago that allegedly showed a student “disrespecting the Quran.” School officials said that student was not an Andrew High School student at the time of the video. School officials asked students who had referenced the video to share it with the school, but said no student has been able to do so.
The 10 students involved in the fight were “equally and appropriately” disciplined, according to the school.
The statement said there was a second physical altercation on Wednesday, but it was not related to the first one.
On Thursday, about 60 students gathered in front of the school to protest what they said was unfair treatment by the administration and to condemn intolerance at the school. The superintendent and principal said the gathering was orderly and peaceful, and said rumors about the rallies being “disruptive” and “impeding traffic” were not true.
Also Thursday, about 450 students did not attend class, due to threats that originated on social media that someone would bring a gun to school. Rumors of a weapon turned out to be unfounded.
The school said the usual absence rate is about 120-150 students. About 250 did not attend school Friday.
Students gathered at the school once more on Friday morning. School officials said they were sharing a message of “compassion, tolerance and a celebration for all.”
Since Wednesday’s altercation, rumors spread throughout the community regarding what happened. The superintendent and principal said one of the rumors was that a student burned the Quran at the school and spit in a Muslim student's face. They said that did not happen.
“If it did, swift disciplinary action would be taken as we will never condone hateful behavior,” the statement said.
Another rumor that was spread was that a student was seen in blackface using “disparaging language.” Nolting and Gay said there is no evidence of this happening.
“We believe this is related to a social media post from February of last school year of a student who had recently had a spray tan and posted a racially insensitive remark,” the statement said.
They said the administration became aware of the blackface post recently and said the student involved was “appropriately disciplined.”
Amid the tension, the school said they wanted to remind their students and community that they do not condone hateful behavior. Along with having conversations with their children about intolerance, they also want parents to talk to their kids about social media and how it can further spread rumors.
“We continue to monitor social media and will not hesitate to discipline students who use social media to continue to disrupt the school environment,” officials said.
A safety plan was put in place on Thursday and Friday, and more police presence was available at the school following the week of tension. School officials said they have safety plans in place with the Tinley Park and Orland Hills police departments.
The school said they will continue to work with their students and community to strengthen their core values to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment.
Read the school's statement in full below: