Archdiocese condemns use of racial slurs by Pope John Paul II High School students

Pope John Paul II High School in Upper Providence.
Pope John Paul II High School in Upper Providence. Digital First Media File Photo

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has reached out to the school families, faculty, staff and administrators of Pope John Paul II High School to denounce a racially charged video, reportedly involving students, that was recently posted on social media.

The video shows a group of young people gathered in a circle facing the camera. At the behest of one of the teens, the group yells the N-word, then starts laughing.

Archdiocese Director of Communications Kenneth Gavin released a statement condemning the actions of the students in the video, saying officials were “disheartened and beyond disappointed that young people attending our school would engage in hateful behavior of this nature.”

“We wish to be abundantly clear with all of you that there is no place for hate, racism, or bigotry at Pope John Paul II or any archdiocesan school,” the statement said. “It is not acceptable under any circumstances or at any time. The use of any racial epithet is inconsistent with our values to treat all people with charity, decency and respect. Not only is the behavior in question a violation of our code of conduct, but it also constitutes a violation of the responsible use of technology policy that applies to students both inside and outside of school.”

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The statement went on to say that immediate action will be taken with regard to the incident and that the Office of Catholic Education has been notified.

The school is also conducting an internal investigation that could result in disciplinary action.

The incident comes on the heels of several cases of racial animus at high school campuses around the region.

Earlier this month, a black doll was found hanging by a noose in a locker room at Coatesville High School, and several Coatesville students were later seen in a social media posting, posing with pumpkins carved with images of a swastika and the letters KKK.

Those incidents prompted a student protest and walkout on Oct. 20.

A similar protest was staged at Washington Township High School Oct. 18 after racial tensions boiled over following widely circulated text messages laced with racial epithets.

And on Oct. 6, Cheltenham High School cheerleaders and players were reportedly heckled with racial epithets and rocks were hurled at their activities bus during a football game at Quakertown Community High School — an incident that prompted Superintendent Bill Harner to say, “This is not a one-time incident. We have a problem.”

In the wake of this latest incident, school officials asked families to remind their children that they are representative of the school “at all times, including on weekends outside of school.”

“PJPII takes pride in its long history of being a welcoming and culturally diverse community which empowers young men and women to become contributing members of the Church and society,” the statement said.