Jury Awards $1 Million To Former Students Expelled Over Alleged Blackface Photos

A Northern California jury awarded two former students of Saint Francis High School in Mountain View $1 million and tuition reimbursements after administrators pushed them out over alleged “blackface” photos, which were later revealed to be images of the boys wearing acne facemasks. The jury sided with the plaintiffs on Monday, finding that the school had breached an oral contract and failed to provide due process to the students before expelling them.

The lawsuit, filed in 2020, stated that in August 2017, a boy identified as A.H. had worn a green acne facemask purchased by his mother and took a bathroom selfie with another boy wearing a white acne facemask. The following day, A.H., a friend identified as H.H., and a third boy labeled as Minor III, all put on the green acne facemask and took a picture of themselves, which was provided as evidence in the lawsuit.

As the photo of the boys went viral, they maintained that it had been taken as a joke and not out of racial animosity. However, claims circulated that the boys had taken the photo allegedly intending to portray blackface, leading to a backlash against the school. The students’ families thanked the jury for the verdict, stating that the sacrifice was worth it to clear their boys’ names.

Saint Francis officials called out the dismissal of the plaintiff’s primary legal claims regarding defamation and breach of contract, as well as the finding that the administration had not interfered with the boys’ rights to free speech. The school representative stated that they “respectfully disagree with the jury’s conclusion as to the lesser claim regarding the fairness of our disciplinary review process” and claimed that other “legal options” would be looked into.