Forest Lake superintendent apologizes after photos of students in apparent blackface in 2016 resurface

The superintendent of Forest Lake Area Schools is apologizing after photos of students in apparent blackface at a school event in 2016 resurfaced on Facebook over the weekend.

The photos showed students wearing full-face black face paint at the Homecoming powderpuff game in 2016, according to district officials. The school district sent out an email to families on Saturday in response, saying, "The incident shows there is still work to do in education and reconciliation within our community."

Monday, Superintendent Steve Massey sent out a longer email revealing district leaders had learned of other instances of students wearing full-face black face paint, some of which ended up in the yearbook. The most recent occurence happened in 2016.

"I wish I were writing to you to tell you what we did to address this situation at the time," read Massey's email. "I am deeply saddened to share with you that we did not address this situation at the time, and the students were not asked to remove the paint and were allowed to participate in the events. It is clear that blackface is a symbol of racism and black face paint is too closely reminiscent of that symbol, is inseparable from that symbol, and is offensive and hurtful to our community."

Massey says the district will be taking steps to promote racial equity. This fall, all district staff will complete implicit bias training, classes will adopt inclusive curriculum to incorporate voices from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and a Yearbook Review Board will be established to ensure blackface or other hateful symbols are not published. The district will also establish better procedures for reporting racist incidents.

"Doing better means that we must take specific steps to better prepare our staff to address racial inequalities in our schools and put in specific measures to continually address racial inequalities," read Massey's email.