Two Teens Win Lawsuit After Wrongfully Accused Of ‘Blackface’

Two former students of Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, California, have been awarded $1 million in damages and tuition reimbursements by a Northern California jury following allegations of inappropriate disciplinary actions by school administrators over alleged “blackface” photos.

The jury’s decision, handed down on Monday, favored the plaintiffs on the grounds of the school’s breach of oral contract and lack of due process, despite the students losing on three of their five claims, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Representatives of the Dhillon Law Group, representing the plaintiffs, hailed the decision as groundbreaking, asserting that it sets a precedent requiring all private high schools in California to ensure fair procedures for students facing punishment or expulsion.

The lawsuit detailed an incident from August 2017 involving a student identified as A.H., who, along with another student, wore acne facemasks for a selfie. Subsequently, when a photo of three students wearing similar masks circulated online, allegations arose suggesting it was intended as blackface, sparking controversy.

Following the incident, the school administrators reportedly presented the students with a choice: either voluntarily withdraw or face expulsion. This prompted legal action from the students and their parents, initially seeking $20 million in damages.

The fallout from the incident had significant repercussions for the students, particularly A.H., whose father, Frank Hughes, recounted the impact on his son’s academic and athletic prospects. Despite assurances from school officials, A.H.’s transfer led to complications in his pursuit of playing football at another school, resulting in a year-long ban from sports due to regional regulations.

While the plaintiffs’ families expressed gratitude for the jury’s decision, officials from Saint Francis High School emphasized their disagreement with the jury’s findings, particularly regarding defamation and breach of contract claims. They also maintained that the administration did not infringe upon the students’ rights to free speech.

In response to the verdict, the Hughes family highlighted the sacrifices made to uphold their sons’ innocence and urged the school to reevaluate its disciplinary processes to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Since the incident, A.H. and his family relocated to Utah to facilitate his return to football for his senior year, with the private school now obligated to reimburse the family for moving and living expenses.

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