Students Face Suspension After Sending Hate Speech and Death Threats on Social Media


By Khadija Khan and Ella Lindemann

Eight students have been suspended from Niles West following a string of hate speech posted and circulated on social media platforms over the weekend. The situation escalated on Monday, resulting in death threats and a physical altercation.

Niles West Principal Dr. Karen Ritter addressed the school community in an email: “Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that some of our students posted hurtful comments on social media, that include hate speech and inappropriate content,” Ritter wrote.

Both sides of the conflict shared posts consisting of death threats, one of which included a “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster with students’ faces. Videos of a physical altercation also circulated, which took place on Monday, Oct. 24.

“Any student who uses hate speech to demean another will be suspended and could face expulsion,” Ritter wrote.

According to Assistant Principal for Student Services Dr. Antwan Babakhani, students from both sides of the conflict were suspended.

“From what we know right now, approximately eight students [have been suspended],” Babakhani¬†said. The investigation is ongoing.

This is not the district’s first encounter with hate speech. Last school year, Niles West students organized a protest against hate speech, which involved several community stakeholders, including the NAACP. Also, a March 17 email from Dean Cesar Rosales outlined the responsibilities of the Hate Speech Assessment Team (HSAT), established to investigate hate speech at Niles West. The HSAT was formed last year due to the numerous allegations of hate speech throughout the school year, and is comprised of school deans and building level administrators.

After an investigation of hate speech allegations, “the HSAT collaborates to determine a resolution for both the victim and the offender. These include but are not limited to disciplinary consequences, [and] focus on education for positive change,” Rosales wrote.

To address ongoing concerns and support students, resources will be available on Wednesday, Oct. 26. According to an email from Babakhani and Assistant Principal of Operations Steve Parnther, the student commons will be available to students during their lunch (periods three to seven). Students who have study hall or early release at the end of the school day may attend for periods eight and nine. “Administration, Social Workers, and Psychologists will be available to facilitate discussion and provide support,” they wrote.

On Thursday, Oct. 27 all PE classes will meet in the main gym to  review expectations and consequences.

“The Niles West administration will discuss the incidents circulating through our school, student behavioral expectations (in the school and social media), and as much about consequences as we can share,” Babakhani and Parnther wrote. “We want to open pathways of communication with our students during this time and be clear about our expectations as a school.”