BE and CN students expelled after separate, racially charged media posts

Bishop England High School

CHARLESTON/COLUMBIA—Officials at Bishop England High School on Daniel Island and Cardinal Newman School in Columbia have expelled two students for unrelated but racially offensive media posts.

The Cardinal Newman student appeared in a video demeaning to African Americans. In a letter to school families on May 31, Principal Rob Loia said the expulsion happened a few hours after he was notified about the video.

“Late this morning, I received a copy of a video that contained a Cardinal Newman student participating in a racially charged conversation,” he wrote. “While not threatening violence, it was demeaning to the African American community and offensive to all of us. The student’s parents were immediately contacted and the student expelled.”

No details about the video, the student or the content were disclosed. “This former student’s action was not representative of our Catholic community and is not acceptable,” Loia said. “We have no tolerance for any words or actions that are racist in nature, and we will continue to enforce this.”

Loia said the video was especially disheartening in light of “the tragic murder of George Floyd and the terrible effects of systemic racism [that] have caused great pain, anger, and frustration in our nation, the city of Columbia, and, especially, in our African American community. We are outraged by the injustice.”

School administrators have consulted with key members of its Diversity Task Force. The group plans to meet this week to discuss how the school can continue to stand in solidarity with members of the African American community and work to find reconciliation and promote justice.

Administrators at Bishop England High School expelled a student June 1 after receiving a copy of a social media post that showed the student making a threatening racial comment. Principal Patrick Finneran learned about the post Sunday evening. After consulting with the Bishop England leadership team and diocesan officials, the student’s parents were contacted and the student was expelled. Additionally, police were notified about the post. The school had no further details regarding police interaction with the former student.

“The verbiage in this post was hostile and demeaning to the African American community, and offensive to all of us,” Finneran said in a statement. “We have no tolerance for any words or actions that are racist in nature, and we will continue to enforce this.”

In the wake of this event, Bishop England administrators announced that they, too, will create a Diversity Task Force. The group will work on ways to stand in solidarity with all ethnicities, including African American community members, and work to find reconciliation and promote justice.

This is the second incident at Cardinal Newman. In August 2019 parents learned of racist and threatening videos made by a 16-year-old student that were shared via text message. That student was subsequently expelled. 

The teen was arrested by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department on July 17 and charged with making student threats. 

A second student was later expelled in relation to the videos and threats made against the school. 

Both Loia and Finneran echoed sentiments of a statement released by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone on May 31 regarding riots that have flared in cities across the United States and other parts of the world following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minnesota police. All called for prayers and peace.