Jury Awards $1M to Teens Falsely Accused of Blackface

(HorizonPost.com) – A California jury last Monday awarded two former private school students $500,000 each and tuition reimbursement for being expelled for posting pictures on social media showing them in acne face masks, which were mistaken for “blackface.”

The two students, identified only as A.H. and H.H. in the complaint, sued Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, claiming that the district breached an oral contract and failed to give them due process before it expelled them in 2020 for social media posts that were three years old.

While the Santa Clara County jury rejected some of the claims in the lawsuit, including defamation, breach of contract, and free speech violations, it did side with the students that the school was in breach of an oral contract and deprived the students of their due process rights.

Each student was awarded $500,000 from the school, which was also ordered to reimburse their tuition costs, totaling roughly $70,000.

In one of the pictures, taken in August 2017, A.H. is seen wearing a green acne face mask. The following day, H.H. and another boy posed for a similar photo wearing the face masks.

During the height of the Black Lives Matter riots that followed the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis three years later, the two innocuous Instagram pictures were uncovered and later went viral on social media, with the boys being accused of posing in blackface.

In the wake of the outrage that followed, Saint Francis High School told the boys to quietly withdraw or face expulsion. According to the lawsuit, the teens were not offered a chance for a hearing and the school refused to consider any evidence.

The families of the two boys initially sued for $20 million in damages.

The family of A.H. thanked the jury in a statement for helping the families “find justice” and said they hoped the verdict would pave the way “for their names to be cleared.”

In a statement through their lawyer, the two boys said they filed suit to “redeem our names and reputations,” by correcting the record of what happened when they were only 14.

The boys acknowledged that they tried out acne face masks and took a photo “of this innocent event” that was “grossly mischaracterized during the height of nationwide social unrest.”

Officials from Saint Francis High School said the school “respectfully” disagreed with the jury verdict and was “exploring legal options,” including filing an appeal.

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