Students at a Maryland high school were caught handing each other “N-Word Passes,” and while the students involved say that it was, at the most, a joke that got taken out of context, the principal sees things quite differently, WJLA-TV (Washington) reports. Four of the teens involved have since been suspended, and the mother of one of the teens has obliquely suggested that there may be a lawsuit forthcoming.
Last Friday, thanks to a tip from an African American student who told school officials, teachers at Winston Churchill High School caught the teens in the school lunchroom, handing out yellow slips of paper. Those slips appeared to have come from an online meme in which a screenshot of the “Golden Ticket” from the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory had the word “Ticket” replaced, rather crudely using editing software, with the words “N-WORD PASS.” The suggested message of the slip was that the user would be able to have a “free pass” to use the racial slur.
Sophomore Gavin Norman was one of the teenagers who were allegedly involved in the incident, although he insists he “never touched” the passes. He insists that it was all just a joke.
“It’s a joke that maybe went a tiny bit too far at the most. One person saw it and got offended.”
UPDATE: Gavin Norman told me two of his buddies printed copies of this online meme, and then handed out the yellow pieces of paper to a number of students at Churchill High School last week— Kevin Lewis (@ABC7Kevin) February 12, 2019
The meme, modeled after Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket, says:
“N-WORD PASS.” pic.twitter.com/61lYpJMDEy
The student who “got offended” is an African American girl, according to Norman, whom he describes as a “snitch.”
MORE: "It’s a joke that maybe went a tiny bit too far at the most, but the school blew it out of proportion,” said Norman, who stressed that one of the main students involved is black.— Kevin Lewis (@ABC7Kevin) February 12, 2019
”No one was saying the actual word, and no one thought it was okay to say the actual word.” pic.twitter.com/U5K8vsOJ9q
Despite Norman’s claim that it was all a joke, Principal Brandice Heckert, in an email to parents, explained that the situation was not funny at all and that she “acted swiftly” to contain the problem.
“I am deeply disappointed and appalled that any student in our school would chose to engage in such a racist, hateful act.”
School district officials are not saying if, or how, the teens allegedly involved in the incident were disciplined, citing privacy laws. However, Norman is freely spilling the beans; he says that he and four of his friends have been suspended from school for varying lengths of time, ranging between one to six days.
Norman thinks that’s too much, and believes that no one deserved more than a one-day suspension, at most.
The mothers of at least two of the suspended students seem to think so as well. Neither is revealing their name or their child’s name, or how their child was involved, but both privately told WJLA reporters that the punishment was too harsh. One even obliquely suggested that their might be a lawsuit, calling the school’s treatment of her son “libelous.”