BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Controversial pictures of Halloween costumes that surfaced online last week are now bringing several Baltimore private schools together.
Dozens of students and parents from Gilman and Roland Park Country schools held a rally Tuesday morning, a week after the private school community got a bit of a black eye from those photos.
People in the area say the controversy is not an indication of how they really are, and they are using the incident as a way to educate and take positive steps.
Students and alums from as many as five Baltimore private schools were connected to the photos.
In one of the photos, two white students appeared to be dressed as inmates. The caption contained a racial epithet and says they “broke out.”
In another, a white person appeared to be dressed as an inmate, and the name on the back of his jumpsuit read “Freddie Gray.” The caption reads “ur going to jail tonight.”
In the final picture, a white man without a shirt on had a racial epithet and swastikas drawn on his back.
The boy and girl in the photo on the left are juniors at Roland Park Country School and Gilman School. The person in the Freddie Gray jumpsuit is a former Boys’ Latin School student. And the boy without a shirt is a student at St. Paul’s School.
A student from Mount Saint Joseph High School is believed to have written the captions on all of the pictures.
But the images sparked a message of inclusion and acceptance at the Tuesday morning rally.
“We’re here to just say, ‘Racism is awful, it’s bad, it has no place in our schools’ and to make some positive steps forward,” said Sydnee Ruff, a Roland Park Country School alum and mom. “This opportunity is so much bigger than just one student, two students.”
“It may not be done out of a place of malice, but it’s just a lack of knowledge and we’re here to start those conversations,” says another Roland Park alum, Ashlee Tuck.
Ruff says uncomfortable conversations sometimes need to be had.
“It’s uncomfortable for everybody, and the onus is usually on black people to bring these conversations forward,” she says.
But the community appears ready to have them.
“This is just a blip on the radar,” says Malcolm Ruff. “I think at the end of the day we’re going to move forward together.”
Both schools issued a statement today, calling the rally a positive community building event, but said there’s plenty of work left to be done.
Since the pictures surfaced, parents say school leaders have put together an action plan to address the issues.