After students post racist YouTube video, parent speaks out against ‘toxic culture’ at Lincoln Park High School


Editor’s note: This story includes descriptions of racism and racist comments.

LINCOLN PARK — Lincoln Park High School is facing criticism after students created and shared a video this week making racist comments.

The video, posted to YouTube on Tuesday, shows students interviewing each other about which races they would never date and discussing the reasons why.

“I wouldn’t date Indians,” a student says in the video. “I feel like they’re going to blow a motherfucker.”

“I feel like they’re all ugly to me,” another student said of the Indians. “If I drive them crazy, they’ll bomb me,” said another student.

Another of the 16 students interviewed said they wouldn’t date Chinese people because they might “eat my dog ​​or something.” Other students made similarly derogatory and racist comments about Asians, Latinx and white people.

The video was viewed more than 400 times before being deleted on Wednesday afternoon.

Principal Eric Steinmiller informed parents of the video in a letter sent to the community on Wednesday afternoon, stressing that bullying and hate speech are not allowed at school. But a parent who reported the video to headteachers said it reflected a “toxic culture” that prompted her to withdraw her daughter, a junior, from school in November.

“Unfortunately it was not a shock to see the video,” said the mother, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her daughter’s privacy. “Here’s what it looks like in school, and it’s posted on YouTube for everyone to see.”

“I don’t want to be part of this school anymore”

The high school, 2001 N. Orchard St., enrolls just over 2,100 students, according to state data. Its student body is in the majority minority: 32.5% are Latinx, 20.5% Black and 10.1% Asian. About 32% of students are white.

The mother alerted Steinmiller to the video after someone sent it to her daughter on Wednesday morning, she said.

“[My daughter] was so disgusted by this that she took her old Lincoln Park High School sweatshirt and her school ID card that she was holding and threw them in the trash,” the mother said. “She was like, ‘I’m so sick of all this culture. I don’t want to be part of this school anymore.’ »

Years of racist bullying began when her daughter was in first grade, the mother said. The children would make racist comments about her Indian heritage and tease her for her ethnicity.

“But I think what really got her into trouble was that she likes to wear this big bindi on her head – a big dot which is a symbol of culture for Hindus,” the mother said. “She would wear this to school to want to affirm who she is, but people kept making comments and stuff.”

The mother asked if her daughter wanted to stop wearing the bindi, but she insisted on keeping it on.

“I don’t want to give up. I want to be myself,” she told her mother.

But the bullying escalated until October when her daughter was attacked by two other children as she was leaving school, her mother said.

“A few of them came and started shoving and shoving her, demanding that she take the bindi off,” her mother said. “They made all sorts of comments about the bindi and finally my daughter tried to push away, got out of the way and ran home.”

The mother tried to console her daughter that the bullying would stop, but “she was terrified”, she said. Her daughter was too shaken to report the students for fear of reprisals.

The mother reported the incident to Steinmiller anyway, as well as to the school dean, local school board members and all of her daughter’s teachers, she said. She said her daughter’s grades and attendance suffered because she couldn’t concentrate and was afraid to go to school.

“We didn’t feel like anything was going on and we realized her education was going nowhere, so we ended up having to pull her out of Lincoln Park High School,” she said.

The girl feels safer at private school, but watching the video on Wednesday morning reminded her of the racist things other students would say to her, she said. She thinks Lincoln Park High School should be investigated to make sure no one else is being subjected to the kind of racism her daughter has been.

“The fact that my daughter has been through everything she has done and then this video has me worried that there are so many other kids who are also too scared to talk,” the mum said. “I think there is a much deeper cause for all of this, and CPS needs to make changes to address it.”

Spokespersons for Steinmiller and CPS did not comment on the video or the bullied student’s experience.

“I want to remind our community that bullying and hate speech of any kind violates our core values ​​and will not be tolerated,” Steinmiller wrote in the letter to parents. “I also encourage you to take this opportunity to talk to your child about the importance of using the internet and social media responsibly.”

The school’s counseling team will be on hand to support students with fears or concerns about the video, Steinmiller said.

“Our staff is committed to creating a safe, positive and welcoming learning environment for all students,” Steinmiller said.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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