MICDS expels students over racist messages

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LADUE, Mo. - A St. Louis-area college prep school has removed a group of students who exchanged racist messages via Snapchat which were later leaked to the public.

Lisa Lyle, head of the Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in Ladue, said the five students were no longer welcome at MICDS and would not be returning. The school would not use the word "expelled," opting to say that none of the five students could remain in the community.

Lyle said the investigation began immediately and ended with her telling the parents of the students late Wednesday night.

“Clear and compelling reasons, core values caused us to make a decision," Lyle said.

In the Snapchat messages, at least three students used a racial slur about African-Americans, with a fourth student asking about submitting an application to the Ku Klux Klan.

It involves students who shared racist and sexually explicit social media messages that went viral.

Here’s the school’s complete statement:

September 7, 2017

Dear members of the MICDS community and beyond,

I am writing to update you on the recent racial slur/social media incident that has been impacting our community in deep and profoundly hurtful ways. As a Mission-driven independent school, MICDS (Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School) does not tolerate such language. It goes against everything for which we stand. Still we are a microcosm of our community and our nation. We are no different. Issues of racial bias and lack of understanding for people who are different from us is an ongoing issue. But that doesn’t excuse us nor anyone’s intolerant behavior. At MICDS, we must push ourselves to rise above the status quo. Our Mission demands this of us. Now more than ever we have a real opportunity to help our students understand one another better, and we must stand for what is good and right.

As you know, we have school policies in place that set expectations for our students and require student conduct that is, at all times, consistent with our Mission. We also have implemented a disciplinary process which is carried out when student conduct fails to meet those expectations. This disciplinary process includes a thorough investigation and thoughtful adjudication. Students are not allowed to attend school while the disciplinary process is underway. After the School’s investigation and deliberation are completed, the School makes a final disciplinary decision and communicates the decision to the affected student and his or her family. Disciplinary decisions are always treated with the utmost care and concern, and we do not rush judgment. The sometimes competing factors of development and learning opportunities for the student involved must be weighed against the safety and well-being of our entire student body.

With this incident, the School followed its careful and thorough process - from investigation, to recommendation, to review and then to final decision - to determine the appropriate discipline for each student. It was determined that none of these students can remain in our community because their conduct violated our most deeply held values, was contrary to our Mission and harmed our community in significant ways.

Actions and words like the ones these students shared suggest a lack of empathy for one another, and remind us that our intentions don’t absolve us of the impact our words have — something we also see in the larger St. Louis community and our country. Here at MICDS, we place a high value on empathy and character education in a collaborative, inclusive and diverse learning environment. Our MI and CDS predecessors were integrated during the Civil Rights Era, and our student body today is the most diverse it has ever been, with 34 percent of students who identify as people of color and 65 area zip codes represented in our student body.

Our 2015-2022 Strategic Plan outlines clearly our ambitious intent to create transformative student experiences for each and every child. This includes enrichment and community-building programming and curricular changes that focus on empathy, relationships, character and cultural competency, as well as learning opportunities for all students on the history of racism, privilege (both socioeconomic and racial) and how students can use that privilege to stand for what’s good and right.

Our MICDS community is also built around embracing all the world’s people with compassion. This relies on understanding and more importantly, acting with empathy, respect and caring. We need to understand better one another, but more importantly feel how others feel. Here are some of the steps we have taken and will continue to take together, as a community.

Friends, students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff—as you know we strive each day to live out our Mission to embrace all the world’s people. But let me also be clear—I provide you a list of our current and future endeavors not to toot our own horn, but simply to respond to the questions that have been asked of me. And at the very least, this incident has proven loudly and clearly that we are still not doing enough. But I also say to you with confidence that my—and our—hearts are filled with resolve to continue the work we have begun, and into which we will fully live with your partnership. The Board of Trustees stands firm in its steadfast support.

Until all people who come through our doors and walk our hallways can say with confidence that they are, without a doubt, affirmed and included in this community, we will not stop. Now is the time for us to move full speed ahead—to take accountability, to admit our shortcomings and to respond with unwavering commitment. Please join us.

Lisa Lyle

This is video is from a previous report: