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Southern Idaho high school’s Facebook post with students in blackface stirs outcry

UPDATED: Fri., April 23, 2021

Shelley High School in southern Idaho. After a school pep rally held Thursday, the school posted pictures to Facebook in which students appeared in blackface.  (Courtesy of Facebook)
Shelley High School in southern Idaho. After a school pep rally held Thursday, the school posted pictures to Facebook in which students appeared in blackface. (Courtesy of Facebook)
By Brennen Kauffman Idaho Post-Register

Shelley High School ignited debate in the community after posting pictures to Facebook from a school pep rally where some students appeared to be in blackface.

The pictures were part of a gallery of nearly 60 photos posted by the school after the 2021 Russet Olympics, an event held Thursday as part of the school’s homecoming do-over week. Students were asked to wear different colors to the event depending on their grade level, with seniors wearing black.

While the majority of students in the class only wore black clothes, screenshots of the since-deleted photos showed at least three seniors had their faces completely covered in black paint.

The post was deleted by the school Friday morning, but not before the images were copied by other Facebook users and shared with the Post Register.

Shelley, Idaho, resident Vicky Evans saw the pictures on Facebook after a friend posted about the images on her personal page. Evans said the school administrators should have known how inappropriate the pictures would be.

“I could not believe anyone was that stupid, to allow kids to do that and then post it,” Evans said.

Shelley School District is not holding classes on Fridays this year. High school Principal Burke Davis and Shelley School District Superintendent Chad Williams did not respond to requests for comment on the incident, including why administrators didn’t require the students to remove the makeup and why they eventually decided to delete the photos.

Kimberly Zwygart also posted about the photos on her Facebook account. Zwygart, a self-described activist who organizes the group Citizens for Accountability, Advocacy and Public Safety in Idaho Falls, pointed out that none of the students in the red, gray or white groups had painted their faces.

She said that the school should be held accountable for the “ignorance” in making the social media post and that the students should use this as a learning opportunity.

“We don’t need to be mean to them or punish them. We need to be kind and educate them about why this was not acceptable,” Zwygart said.

Evans described herself as not “politically correct,” and said she agreed with commenters on the post who said that not everything was about race. However, she felt that anything approaching blackface should have been immediately flagged as a problem.

“I don’t think they intended to be racist, but in the world we live in, it’s often not about our intentions. We have to be aware of what we do,” Evans said.

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