A high school football game between Huntsville and crosstown rival Grissom has been postponed after racist images posted by students to social media sparked anger and school officials feared potential violence.
Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley informed parents of the cancellation in an email on Wednesday evening.
“Earlier today, I was made aware of instances of inappropriate social media posts created and shared by several students,” Finley wrote to parents. “These posts turned racially motivated and violent images into ‘rivalry material.’ The students involved in this incident trivialized racism and violence. Huntsville City Schools does not tolerate or condone racism or violence, and, frankly, I expect better of our students.
“The students responsible for these actions will be punished according to our Behavioral Learning Guide, and for privacy reasons, I cannot and will not discuss their punishment publicly. I do want to state that postponing the football game isn’t intended to punish the students who strive to be all that we expect of our students. Instead, this postponement allows us to ensure the game environment later this month will be safe and serve as an opportunity for Huntsville and Grissom high schools to address the issues that these social media posts present.”
APR was provided a few of the images that prompted the cancellation. In one, a photo from the scene in which George Floyd was allegedly murdered by Minneapolis, Huntsville was portrayed as the officer and Grissom as Floyd, lying on the ground.
There were also screenshots of students’ replies to the memes, which included threats of violence back and forth.
According to several people familiar with the situation, there have also been threats of violence and minor skirmishes throughout Wednesday. School officials feared that the hostility would only grow and could create a dangerous environment at Thursday’s game.
“In anticipation of our students returning to campus on September 21st, teachers at Huntsville and Grissom will continue conversations surrounding respect, equity, diversity, and inclusion as part of their remote lessons,” Finley wrote. “These lessons will continue throughout the month of September as students transition from remote to in-person learning. Our students will be the future leaders in our community. An important part of being a member of a community is knowing that your actions can have far reaching effects. I know that our students will rise to the occasion and help us as we strive to maintain safe and positive environments in our schools.”