Howard County school officials say student made 'racially offensive' social media post

Oakland Mills principal informs parents about student's "racially offensive and hurtful" social media post.

Howard County public school officials have notified parents of Oakland Mills High School students of what they called a "racially offensive and hurtful post" made by a student on social media.

John White, county schools spokesman, said via email Thursday that a 16-year-old student at the Columbia school made and shared the "racially offensive social media post," on the "I-Funny" comedy app.

"This is in no way connected with the school," White said.

White said the post included the student's image and "racist comments." He said the school system was made aware of the post on Nov. 30, and said the student — whom he did not identify — had acknowledged what he did.

In an email to parents Wednesday, Katherine Orlando, principal at Oakland Mills, said "I am in contact with parents and appropriate action is being taken. … This kind of behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated."

White said the matter is being handled in accordance with the school system's student code of conduct, which states: "Disciplinary action may be taken for off-campus incidents if the action could have an adverse effect on the order and general welfare of the schools." He did not say what action might be taken.

Last month in Howard County, school administrators investigated other incidents involving students — one in which a post depicted a white student enrolled at Atholton High School in Columbia in blackface with a caption that included a racial epitaph, and another in which a photo was posted of a white student from River Hill High School, in Clarksville, holding what appeared to be a handgun and also including a caption with a racial epitaph. Both of those occurred on private social media accounts.

"This is something that schools systems across the state and across the nation are facing," White said regarding students making offensive or questionable social media posts.

"We really need the help of parents to meet this challenge," White said. "It's important for students and parents to remember that these mistakes can come back to haunt you when you apply for college or a job."

White noted the school system's Office of Cultural Proficiency has launched Student Voice Circles, a program designed to help students discuss issues and concerns about the schools and school communities.

This past week Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced a series of community forums that officials said were designed to reinforce the county's commitment to inclusiveness. Called #OneHoward, the series has a goal to promote positive dialogue and respect, officials said.

The first event is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Bain 50+ Center in Columbia. The forum will include representation from local schools and the police department. David Steele, president of the county's chapter of the NAACP, said he plans to join other local leaders at the series to stress the county's commitment to unity and inclusiveness.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Fatimah Waseem contributed to this story.

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