Local NewsTeens win $1 million over wrongful blackface expulsion from Catholic school, California

Teens win $1 million over wrongful blackface expulsion from Catholic school, California

Students expelled from school received compensation.
Students expelled from school received compensation.
Images source: © X

1:06 PM EDT, May 10, 2024

Two teenagers expelled from an elite Catholic school in California for an alleged "blackface" incident received a total of over 1 million dollars in compensation from a jury. They demonstrated that the photo prompting their expulsion merely showed them wearing green acne masks.

In 2017, during a sleepover at a friend’s house, two 14-year-old students of Saint Francis High School in Mountain View captured a photo while wearing acne masks. Their intention was to express solidarity with a friend troubled by acne. The mask, bought by the mother of one of the boys, was light green upon application and darkened as it dried.

Teenagers wrongly accused of "blackface"

Three years later, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd's murder in 2020, the photo became widely circulated. The boys were accused of racism and were subsequently expelled from the school.

This week, a jury in Santa Clara County found that the school had breached a verbal agreement and denied the students due process before expelling them.

“This case is significant not only for our clients but also for its pioneering implications for all private high schools in California,” stated Krista Baughman, a lawyer representing the students. “These institutions are now legally required to provide students with a fair procedure before implementing disciplinary actions or expulsions.”

Boys awarded 1 million dollars in compensation

As per the jury's ruling, the students, referred to in the lawsuit as A.H. and H.H., each received 500 thousand dollars in compensation and a reimbursement of their tuition fees amounting to 70 thousand dollars. A.H.’s family expressed their appreciation for the jury and judicial system for aiding in “securing justice” and “exonerating the boys from unfounded accusations.”

The students proved that they used a face mask for acne.
The students proved that they used a face mask for acne.© Superior Court of California

The initial claim sought 20 million dollars, yet the jury dismissed several of the boys' claims, including defamation and infringement of freedom of speech. Representatives from the school expressed their respectful disagreement with the verdict and mentioned they are “considering legal avenues,” including an appeal.

Related content