Alumnae of St. Teresa’s Academy are upset by the school’s lax response to social media posts that show current students posing with a swastika.
According to multiple alumnae who reached out to KCUR, seven students arranged plastic cups in the shape of a swastika while playing beer pong at a weekend party. They then shared photos of themselves with the swastika on Snapchat with the caption, “Girls night!”
Upset classmates asked the girls to take the photos down, and when they refused, one of their peers went to administration. The girls allegedly received one day of “in-school reflection,” were banned from participating in activities for a week and had to email the colleges they planned to attend.
“That’s the same punishment one of my peers received for bringing an e-cigarette to class,” says Maddie Summers, a 2016 St. Teresa’s graduate who is now a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
It’s Summers’ opinion that what the students did violates St. Teresa’s core values – mutual respect, integrity, compassion and justice.
“I don’t believe there has been any compassion or justice in this situation,” Summers says.
Summers says the anti-Semitic symbol was particularly egregious given that a St. Teresa’s alumna, Terri LaManno, was gunned down by an avowed anti-Semite outside Village Shalom in 2014.
Kathleen Pointer, a 2007 St. Teresa’s graduate who recently moved back to the Kansas City area after several years in Chicago, says she’s concerned that the student who reported her classmates to administration is being bullied.
“From what I’ve heard, she has gotten backlash from the girls she reported on and is having a difficult time,” Pointer says.
Like Summers, Pointer remembers classmates getting far harsher punishments for lesser infractions than these girls allegedly did.
Summers says she’s reached out to Liz Baker, principal for student affairs, to ask why the school hasn’t publicly condemned the students involved.
“I emailed her yesterday – still no reply,” says Summers. “I’ve had friends who’ve been emailing her every day all week who’ve still had no reply.”
On Monday, the school sent the following email to parents of St. Teresa’s students:
“The St. Teresa’s Academy community was challenged this past week in a student incident. We wanted you to be aware of the occurrence and what steps we are undertaking. Because of the privacy and legal issues involved, we are unable to report every detail. However, in the interest of transparency and in learning from this occurrence, we are reporting what we can.
“A group of STA students were drinking alcohol and participating in a beer drinking game. A picture of their activity which was unrelated to any school-sponsored event took place off school property and after school hours, was posted on social media. The beer drinking game involved the placement of cups in a sequence resembling a hateful symbol. Upon the incident being brought to our attention, STA leadership undertook an internal, as well as external investigation. We investigated the underage drinking as well as the potential for racial discrimination. We also involved the KC Police Dept. Internal and external investigations concluded that this is a case of inappropriate and unlawful underage drinking. After careful and complete review by the STA administrative team and in accordance with school policies, the students involved were disciplined.
“STA is committed to providing a respectful and inclusive learning environment for our students. As such, the Academy is rooted in Christian values and embraces a culturally, economically, ethnically, and racially diverse student body, all with diverse perspectives and experiences. We constantly strive to promote civil discourse, understanding, and appreciation of these differences, which is vital in an increasingly diverse and global society. When there is disruption to this inclusivity in our learning environment, it is appropriate for the Academy to take responsive action. Our hope is that, as our mission states, 'profound love' in action can lead to unity and reconciliation. We are ardent in attaining a safe and quality educational environment for all of our students. We are committed to provided our students the best educational opportunities we can while balancing justice, mercy, and reconciliation.”
Calls to the school for comment were not returned immediately.
Correction: The email to St. Teresa's parents was sent Monday, not Thursday.
Editor’s note: KCUR has received screenshots of the social media post but is not publishing them because the participants are minors.
Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.