COATESVILLE, Pa. (CBS) — Hundreds of students at Coatesville Area High School participated in a “Unity Event” Friday morning following two racist incidents.
More than 200 students dressed in black walked out of class, angered by racist symbols carved into pumpkins.
“This shows that we’re coming together as a community, that we don’t respect it, and we’re not going to take the disrespect. It shows we’re standing up for what’s right,” said sophomore Autumn Rolle.
Authorities say a group of Coatesville Area Senior High School students carved racist and anti-Semitic symbols into pumpkins. In response, a large group of students walked out of class as a show of unity.
Along with some administrators, they went to the football field, but later, about 200 students continued the demonstrations in front of the school, staying out for the rest of the day.
“Equal rights for the school,” said senior Joey Smith. “I think everyone deserves to be treated equally.”
Students also claim a dark-skinned female doll was found hanging by the neck in a locker room. Students say they repeatedly told administrators about the doll.
“It offended me because that doll looks like me,” said junior India Thomas. “That doll looks like a lot of my friends. They’re not doing anything about it.”
School officials say the event, which was designed by students and administrators, was a safe way for students to express themselves. Principal Michele Snyder says the event was designed to give students a voice as they speak about tolerance, acceptance and respect.
“The students specially wanted to call it a Unity Event and chose to link arms to stand in unity against racism, bigotry, and hatred,” said Snyder. “We are very proud of our students who stand in unity against hatred.”
Parents were notified of the optional event Thursday night.
The students who stayed out all day could be disciplined because they refused to go back inside after the morning show of unity.
Earlier this week, a picture made rounds on social media showing possible classmates posing behind pumpkins that had a swastika and the letters KKK carved into them.
The pumpkin carving happened off school grounds, meaning Coatesville Area School District officials can’t punish those students, but they are investigating the doll incident.
“We are extremely disappointed that any of our students would display this kind of hatred and vile behavior,” said superintendent Dr. Cathy Taschner. “It’s reprehensible and intolerable, and this photo causes deep sadness and concern.”
Students went home around 2:30 p.m.