Southern High School principal Kathryn Feuerherd said students posted discriminatory and threatening comments on Snapchat "Confederate Lives Matter" story. (Produced by Thalia Juarez l BSMG)
Anne Arundel police launched an investigation Friday into complaints that a group of students at Southern High School harassed another student by posting threatening language on social media posts under the name Confederate Lives Matter.
After being asked by The Capital about messages posted on Snapchat with obscene and violent language aimed at a transgender student, police contacted the student’s family, and Principal Kathryn Feuerherd sent an email about the incident to students and their families.
“I want to be very clear that we have taken — and continue to take — this issue very seriously,” Feuerherd wrote. “These posts do not reflect the values of character and integrity we hold for our school and greater school community.”
The father of the student, who The Capital is not identifying because of the nature of the harassment, said until late Friday he hadn’t heard from schools or police since filing a complaint Nov. 2.
In a copy of his complaint provided to the newspaper, the man wrote that at least two students at the school threatened to hurt his 15-year-old son in posts on a Snapchat story titled “Confederate Lives Matter.” One of the posts features a picture of a student wearing what appears to be a KKK-like hood made from paper towels.
Other posts contain threats of violence and graphic references to the student’s gender status.
The student’s father said in the complaint that a school administrator assured him action would be taken regarding the Confederate Lives Matter posts. Anne Arundel police said they were familiar with the incident, but hadn’t seen the images the family shared with The Capital.
Early Friday evening, detectives arrived at the family’s home and opened an investigation, the student’s father said.
In her email to the school community, Feuerherd wrote the school learned of the incident within the last few days and had taken disciplinary action against the students involved. She suggested parents contact school officials to report bullying or discriminatory behavior.
“It is our joint obligation to support every single student who walks through the doors of Southern High School,” she said. “This is a community built on rich support for each other, and I urge you to help us to instill and enhance that ideal in our children.”
Police are assisting the school in their investigation into the matter, she wrote, and school officials are attempting to take the Snapchat story down.
Lt. Ryan Frashure, a police spokesman, confirmed that detectives would begin an investigation.
The target of the posts said he has felt uncomfortable at the school since arriving. He identified himself as transgender in the seventh grade.
The school system has guidelines that specify transgender students can use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Students on field trips can also sleep in the common space and play on the intramural sports team of their gender identity.
The student’s father said the incident hasn’t been the first harassment his son has faced. His son was spat on at school Friday, and last year he was moved to Arundel High School temporarily after students kicked in the door to a bathroom stall he was inside, his father said.
“I’ve just generally been uncomfortable in my school,” the student said. “I’ve never felt secure and safe. There’s always a bit of fear in the back of my mind because of experiences I’ve had with people in the area.”
The images were posted to a geographically linked story on Snapchat, a social media platform where posts disappear after an allotted time.
The student said he believed other students started posting to the story in early October, but said he is unsure if it has been active the entire time.
County school social media policy prohibits students from using social media in a hostile or threatening way while on school premises.
The student’s father said the image of the student wearing a faux KKK hood appeared to have been taken on school grounds, based on the background.
At the beginning of this school year, Anne Arundel County Public Schools released a guide and informational video promoting online safety.
In January, a Twitter account using the handle @KKKforeal used racist language in a promise to blow up Annapolis High School. Later that month, a student spread a rumor via Instagram of another student’s plans to shoot up the school.