Marian Central Catholic High School responded to members of the community calling for action after a Marian student posted a video on social media depicting racist animated content.
In a letter from Assistant Superintendent Mike Shukis posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon, Shukis condemned racism and mentioned that the school would develop “programs that will help repair the damages caused by racial discrimination,” but did not mention the video.
“On behalf of Marian, I am asking all those who have been affected by racism, both within and outside of Marian for forgiveness,” Shukis wrote.
The video in question was allegedly posted on a student’s Instagram account and has since been circulating on various social media platforms, igniting outrage among community members.
The post was of a video in which animated characters designed to look like members of the Ku Klux Klan lynched an animated black character.
Some people commented on the school’s Facebook post to thank them for responding, but others expressed criticism of the administration’s decision not to address the video specifically.
According to a previous statement posted on Marian’s Facebook page Wednesday evening, the school is “in the process of taking care of the situation expeditiously.”
This controversy comes in the wake of local and national protests against police brutality and racial violence, spurred by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man.
George Floyd died on May 25 after a former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was laying handcuffed on the ground. Chauvin, who has since been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck even after he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”
In his letter, Shukis wrote that he was “personally sickened and outraged” by the video of Floyd’s death, which was taken by bystanders and quickly went viral.
Shukis referenced a recent statement released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said that Floyd’s death should be a wake up call that “we need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society.”
“To answer this call, Marian must first acknowledge its own history of racism and we must stand firm in our desire to overcome our previous sins of omission when it has come to combating racism and working toward racial reconciliation,” Shukis wrote.
“Racism at Marian must be met head on and we will not turn a blind eye to people of color who are deprived of their human dignity, and even their lives.”
As far as specific actions the school plans to take, Shukis stated that they have scheduled diversity training for all staff for the upcoming school year, which will be followed by a training course for students.
“It should be noted that around Christmas , Marian made the decision to devote the entire 2020-21 school year to diversity training,” he wrote.
The school formed a Catholic Social Justice Club this past year, which Shukis wrote was designed to address “this type of situation.”
“This is just a beginning, we know, but it is a start,” Shukis wrote.
In Thursday’s Facebook post, Marian also released a statement from the school’s administration “in light of today’s racial tension.”
The statement was written to mark the school’s recommitment to its Catholic values of “dignity of all human beings and our love for all our neighbors.”
According to the statement, “Marian Central strives to provide an environment infused with Catholic values that do not discriminate based on race, color, national and ethnic origin in the administration of its education and admission policies.”
Marian is a private, Catholic high school located in Woodstock and was attended by 525 students during the 2019-20 school year, according to their website.
In their Wednesday Facebook post, Marian officials said that they received “a number of emails” from people expressing concern over the video posted by one of their students.
The school’s administration could not be reached for an interview on Thursday.
Shukis ended his letter on Thursday with a Catholic prayer: “Oh, my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”