Teen Students Win $1 Million Lawsuit Against Elite California School in Blackface Controversy

Two former students at Saint Francis High School, a prestigious Catholic institution in Mountain View, California, were jointly awarded more than $1 million after proving they were falsely accused of wearing blackface and wrongfully expelled in 2020.

Trim Correspondents
New Update
Two teens in California awarded $1 million after being accused of 'blackface' while wearing acne cream, forcing them out of their elite Catholic school.

Teens Falsely Accused of Blackface Win $1 Million Lawsuit Against Elite Catholic School

Two former students at the prestigious Saint Francis High School have been awarded over $1 million after a jury found the Catholic school wrongfully expelled them in 2020 for a photo that was misconstrued as blackface. 

The incident dates back to 2017 when the two boys, who were 14 years old at the time, took a selfie while wearing a green acne face mask during a sleepover. The treatment initially appeared light green but dried to a darker shade.

Three years later, in 2020 amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd, the photo resurfaced and was widely shared online. Despite the students' insistence that it was simply a skincare mask, Saint Francis High School accused them of wearing blackface and expelled them without due process.

"This case is about an innocent mistake that turned into a catastrophic accusation of racism," said Krista Baughman, an attorney representing the boys identified as A.H. and H.H. "These young teens' lives were turned upside down by false allegations."

After a two-week trial, a Santa Clara County jury ruled that the elite private school in Mountain View breached an oral contract with the students by failing to provide them a fair disciplinary process before expelling them.

A.H. and H.H were each awarded $500,000 in damages, and the school was ordered to reimburse their $70,000 tuition fees.

"The jury rightly confirmed that Saint Francis High School's procedures were unfair to our clients and that the school is not above the law," Baughman stated.  

In a statement, A.H.'s family expressed gratitude for the verdict, saying it "paves the way for their names to be cleared for things they never did."

The school has indicated it may appeal, saying it "respectfully disagrees" with the decision.

The case could have far-reaching implications by legally requiring California's private high schools to afford students proper due process protections before meting out discipline.

"This ruling sets a precedent that private schools must follow fair procedures and provide students an opportunity to be heard before taking rash disciplinary actions," said legal expert Jessica Levinson.

For the teens at the center of this controversy, the $1 million judgment represents a measure of justice and accountability from an institution that was too quick to condemn.

Why It Matters:

This case highlights the importance of due process and fair treatment for students in private educational institutions. The verdict sets a precedent that private high schools in California must provide proper procedures and investigations before disciplining or expelling students, ensuring their rights are protected.

Additionally, the case serves as a cautionary tale about the potential consequences of rushing to judgment in controversial situations without thoroughly examining the facts. The students' lives were significantly impacted by the false accusations and subsequent expulsion, underscoring the need for careful consideration and adherence to established procedures.

Key Takeaways

  • Two former students at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, California were awarded $1 million in a lawsuit against the school.
  • The students were expelled in 2020 after a photo of them wearing a green acne face mask went viral, falsely accused of being blackface.
  • A jury found the school breached an oral contract and failed to provide due process before expelling the students.
  • Each student received $500,000 in damages and tuition reimbursement of $70,000.
  • The case sets a precedent for private high schools in California to provide fair procedures before disciplining or expelling students.