Fenton Area Public Schools staff member on leave during 'prank' investigation

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FENTON (WJRT) (05/17/19) - Fenton Area Public Schools is actively investigating a so-called senior prank with racial overtones that happened Thursday at Fenton High School.

"We are very disappointed. I personally, as Fenton Area Public Schools superintendent, am embarrassed that we're dealing with this situation," said Superintendent Dr. Adam Hartley.

Hartley said a staff member is on administrative leave while the district investigates the "offensive and inappropriate" incident.

The superintendent confirmed there are a small number of students and a staff member pictured in a photo circulating online. Over the photo it reads "Cholo Day," which is an association to Mexican-American urban street gangs.

There are also videos that were posted that Hartley said the district became aware of Friday. Some of the students are dressed in plaid, baggy clothes and bandanas while holding up what appears to be gang signs.

"They were dressing up as a stereotype and dancing and such in classrooms," said former student Chapin Kartsounes.

She is attending college a couple of hours away. She saw the photo and videos online and wanted the school to do something about it.

"I posted on Facebook that it was racist and wasn't okay because I felt the PR would kind of kick-start some action," Kartsounes said. "I knew that most of the kids probably didn't know that what they were doing was wrong. Mostly my frustration was towards the faculty member because as an adult they should have known this was not an okay thing to do."

Her post was shared almost 150 times and received hundreds of comments before she made the post private because of threatening messages.

"I think it's important to communicate this was not a school sponsored senior prank. This was not agreed upon with the administration," Hartley said. "We'll continue to educate our students, to be transparent, to talk about celebrating diversity and so on, but this incident has really prompted us to take a step back and know that we have to do something more intentional in the short term and long term."

A letter was sent home to parents explaining what happened and asking them to use it as a teaching moment. The complete letter is attached to this article.