Freedom of Speech?

Central not immune to post-election tensions


Lexi Haskell

In this staged photo, a Central student wears an “I support Blake” pin on her chest. Several students were instructed to remove or hand over the buttons.

Lexi Haskell, Editor-in-Chief

Update as of 11/15/16 at 4:16 p.m.

Since this article was originally posted, Jackson and the other student involved in the incident  have reconciled.

Jackson released the following statement: “I’m glad [the student] and I reconciled. We may never be as close [of] friends as we [once] were again, but I’m happy it’s finally over.”

The other student has not yet responded to the Central Times’ request for comment.

Update as of 11/15/16 at 1:51 p.m.

It was previously reported that Anna Novak, senior, was asked to remove her pin by administration. After further investigation, the Central Times has determined that this did not occur. An unnamed student was asked to give his or her pin to an administrator, and the student did so willingly and the pin was returned the next day.

Additionally, the image of the text messages has been removed from this article. It was originally posted with the intention of providing context for the incident. The Central Times was well within its rights as a publication to post the image. However, the reaction from readers has morphed the image into a catalyst of hate, which is contrary to the intention of the Central Times editorial board.

Finally, the comment section of this article is no longer active. It was shut off at 6:00 p.m. on Nov. 14 by the Central Times Editor-in-Chief Lexi Haskell. The Central Times refuses to condone the hate speech and harassment that was circulating in the comments section. 

“My actions were not right in any circumstances, but there is only so much a person can take.”

In the wake of Tuesday’s election of Donald Trump as the next president, many Americans feel they’ve reached a breaking point. Junior Blake Jackson is one of them.

So when Jackson received  a racially insensitive text message from a friend, he  responded  the next day—with his fists.

Jackson was suspended for the altercation, and as news of the incident spread, so too did word that the student who provoked him was not sanctioned. Given that Jackson is African-American and the other student, a freshman, is white, this narrative sparked outrage among classmates who heard about it.  That part of the story was false, however, as Central administration has since confirmed that both students were reprimanded for the incident.

Reportedly intended as a joke, Jackson said he could not accept what he read as such.

“When he sent me that message in [a] group chat, something went through me,” Jackson said. “Who would say such a thing like that to another human being?”

Some students reacted to the news by wearing buttons the next day to demonstrate their support for Jackson. Anna Novak, a senior, organized the pins.

“I was devastated [when I heard what happened],” Novak said. “Not only as a friend to the student involved, but as a member of the NCHS community. As a student here at Central, it pains me to see my fellow students treat each other with disrespect.”

Tensions escalated further when Novak was instructed to remove her pin by a member of Central’s administrative staff in violation of her First Amendment rights.  Other students were told to do the same.

“We are not targeting specific people, and we are not in any way acting out with violence or threats,” Novak said. “We are showing love and support to all.  We are fighting against racism, against discrimination, and against hate.”

This incident at Central, it turns out, is part of a larger surge of intolerance, as stories have filtered in from around the country of minority students being harassed. At a Michigan junior high, for example, a video went viral of students disrupting a lunch period by chanting “build a wall.” At Central, Principal Bill Wiesbrook addressed students over the public address system on Wednesday to emphasize the need for sensitivity and positive behavior.

Novak considers her show of support for Jackson to be exactly that.

“The response from the pins was very uplifting,” Novak said. “It was amazing to see all of the students who wanted to get involved and help spread support with us.  It  showed that we have the power to do good in our school, and we plan on it.”

The CT reached out to the other student involved in the altercation for comment. His mother spoke on his behalf, emphasizing that her son’s comments were within his First Amendment rights.