Massachusetts High School Investigates Racist Facebook Messages

Only two days into the school year, a Massachusetts father is concerned about how the rest of his son's semester will go at Wellesley High School.

"There must be some underlying racism that needs to be addressed," said Tendai Musikavanhu.

In July, he learned his son, a junior at the school, was at the center of a string of Facebook messages that appeared to contain racist threats and insults made at the Musikavanhu family, as well as other students of color.

"Reading the N word, being told to go home to Africa," he explained. "Reading that is very offensive. But when it's applied to your family it just adds another dimension."

The messages were initially sent in a private chat group by students at Wellesley High and surrounding communities. They were made public when someone shared them, prompting the school and police to investigate.

"My concern is that when violent thoughts become violent words, and there's not some sort of check point to nip this sort of behavior in the bud, it's just a matter of time whether these people are taken and channeled into violent action," Musikavanhu said. "That needs to be stopped."

Wellesley Police said Thursday the matter was now being handled by the school. Superintendent David Lussier could not comment on whether any disciplinary action had been taken against the students involved, but he said the incident has prompted a new conversation about race and inclusion within the school.

"With the help of community partners, we hope to more formally assess the climate around race and diversity to better understand our current environment," Lussier wrote in an email to necn. "We hope this becomes an opportunity for our community to learn together so that we can ensure that our town remains a place where diversity is seen as a strength and where we maintain cooperative and caring relationships."

The high school's principal addressed the issue in a speech to students on their first day, Wednesday. The entire text can be read here.

Musikavanhu said his son was positive about his first week back. While they want some sort of consequences to be imposed on those involved, the family is encouraged by the new dialogue.

"I think this gives us an opportunity to have meaningful discussion," Musikavanhu said. "Let's ask our children whether they're interacting with enough people from different backgrounds, and if not, why not."

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