LHS Spirit Week Controversy: Student Covers Face in Black Paint

One Londonderry High School (LHS) student has had enough.

“Never in a million years would I have thought that a child in this day and age, a 16 or 17 year old child, as a junior [in high school], would’ve thought that was in any way, shape, or form, appropriate,” reflected the mother of that student.

On June 15, LHS juniors were encouraged to wear black as part of spirit week, as that was the color for the rising senior class. However, when one student decided to cover his face with black paint and wear it to class, another student felt racially targeted for being African American, and sought help from school officials.

The school launched an investigation and when reached for comment on the incident, Londonderry School District superintendent, Scott Laliberte, said, “The incident came about as a result of spirit week activity, where the students dress in the class color of the next grade up. And in this particular situation, the student was a junior, who will be a senior in the fall. Their class color is black. Most of the students wore black clothing, this particular student wore some athletic eye black, from what I understand, and rubbed it over the rest of his face at some point. There were some other students who took offense to that, apparently there were some other comments that were made by another student as well, and the administration was informed of this and they took immediate action. They immediately interviewed all the students who were involved and applied appropriate disciplinary consequences.”

Laliberte continued, “We have met not only with the students who were affected, we met with them and their parents, met with the school administrators. And we’ve been talking about ways in which we can ensure that our students and our staff and everyone in our community in the Londonderry schools can be more sensitive to some of the issues involving race and nationality, and we feel like this is a perfect time for us to do some research into that over the summer, take a look at different ways in which we could work with our students and our staff to be more sensitive to the needs of our diverse community.”

Meanwhile, the mother of the affected student believes that this is a much bigger problem than the eye black that the Laliberte referred to.

“This is certainly, in my opinion, one of the worst things that could possibly happen. It’s at the top of the ladder,” she said. “But this is not the only situation that any of my children have had to endure in the Londonderry School District.”

Her daughter reports having experienced about a dozen instances this year alone, regarding racial offenses, several of which have included hearing the ‘n’ word. Though choosing to remain anonymous, in fear of backlash from other students, she has found her voice and decided to speak up, in an attempt to end the reoccurring pain from racial harassment.

Despite efforts to step up and question officials, the mother has been alarmed by the lack of answers she has yet to receive from the superintendent about the issue. She claims this to be another recurring event, where she is often assured that incidents have been handled, without being provided additional details.

“Every situation that I’ve brought to their attention, or my daughter has brought to their attention, they can’t tell me what they did, or what happened to the person who did things to my kid, but they’ve handled it, yet I have not seen any change,” she said.

The mother hopes to see the school system make changes in the future, to include more staff training to help prevent issues of racial insensitivity and harassment.

“What I would want anybody to come away with is demanding that the Londonderry School District implements changes that will show they are finally taking this seriously, so that no child will have to endure the continuous emotional damage as my child has,” she said. “This was not eye black, this was black face.”

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