California High School Students Expelled For Blackface Accusations Awarded $1M In Lawsuit 

Former students at a Bay Area high school were awarded $1 million along with tuition reimbursement after being accused of sporting blackface, resulting in them being expelled. 

Both students, listed as ​A.H. and H.H. in the lawsuit, will receive $500,000 each from the school and $70,000 in tuition total after the students and their parents originally only sought $20 million in damages. 

On May 6, a jury from Santa Clara County sided with the former Saint Francis High School students, located in Mountain View, who argued the district was in breach of an oral contract and did not provide due process before expelling them in 2020 for photos that had been taken three years prior. 

The picture in question was taken in August 2017 during a sleepover. According to the suit, A.H. was seen wearing a green face acne mask. The next day, H.H. and another boy took a mimicking picture of themselves wearing the same face masks. During the uprising of the Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd and racial injustice, the photos resurfaced, going viral. 

Saint Francis administrators gave the boys two options — to either withdraw from school or face expulsion. The boys claim they were never offered a hearing, and the school did not consider any evidence. 

While the jury rejected the students’ breach of contract, defamation, and violation of free speech claims, attorney Krista Baughman said she is pleased with the outcome. “Our primary goal was to clear our clients’ names,” Baughman said, according to Fox News. 

“It was quite clear the jury believed these were innocent face masks. They are young kids, their internet trial is going to haunt them for the next 60 years. Now they don’t have to worry about that.”

The jury did hold the school accountable, finding them guilty of two of the five claims made in the lawsuit, including failing to do a proper investigation. High school representatives released a statement following the jury’s verdict stating they “respectfully disagree with the jury’s conclusion as to the lesser claim regarding the fairness of our disciplinary review process.” 

School officials said they are “exploring legal options,” including appealing the initial verdict. “We are grateful for the strong support of our community throughout this case,” the statement continued. “We look forward to putting this matter behind us so we can return to focusing solely on educating our vibrant student body and living the Catholic values of the Holy Cross tradition, which are rooted in hope, respect, integrity, and family.”

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