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Holland Hall School officials address racism after students use slur on Snapchat

While the school has declined to discuss the specifics of the punishments doled out, what made its way around school was that. (KTUL)

One of Tulsa's most elite schools is trying to tackle the difficult topic of racism after it was discovered that a group of students had been using a racial slur.

It involved six students and the N-word and began with a private Snapchat group.

"Just talking about stuff with one another, the original intent was not to end up doing anything harmful or hurtful or anything else like that, and then devolved into a place where they were using a racial epithet to check into that Snapchat group," said Head of School, J.P. Culley.

It took place over the summer, and when school officials found out, they decided to investigate.

"And in the course of that investigation, having conversations with the students involved, the admitted to us what they had done and showed tremendous remorse and regret," he said.

"The whole essence of racism is based on hatred," said Holland Hall parent David Harris, using the moment to have a candid conversation with his child.

"We had a very in-depth discussion about race relations and about the plight," he said.

While the school has declined to discuss the specifics of the punishments doled out, what made its way around school was that "[t]hey were not allowed to have their phones on campus. And then they weren’t allowed to be at any of the social events for the school unless they were part of the team," said Harris.

For Harris, the punishment didn't fit the offense.

"I think it was a great opportunity, one, for the school to take a stronger stance whether it be suspension or expulsion so that the kids understand the severity," said Harris.

"Expulsion, suspension were those on the table at the beginning? Absolutely, yes, those are things that were strongly considered," said Culley.

For Culley, the incident, while regrettable, also became a teachable moment.

"We believe kids make mistakes, and kids do dumb things, and the level of culpability depends on their degree of remorse, their willingness to accept responsibility, and the ability of the school community to support those individuals when they mess up, and that’s anything from plagiarism to using inappropriate words to whatever the situation might be. Some things are so egregious then they result in immediate expulsion," he said.

In fact, one student is no longer at the school after failing to comply with the consequences. And should other students find themselves tempted to go down the same road, they will face consequences.

"We made it clear that going forward if these words came to our attention again, not just from this group of individuals but from others, even if the intent, if the impact is so negative than the intent was very very different, it could very well result in expulsion," Cully said.

Harris hopes the students mature to have a more inclusive mindset.

"It is just my hope that they mature beyond this mindset and have a much more inclusive mindset, a much more diverse mindset, and a much more racially sensitive mindset as they go forward," Harris said.

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