Jacksonville private school students are sharing experiences with racism on Instagram

Students, faculty and alumni are posting their stories anonymously under Instagram accounts

Students, faculty and alumni are posting their stories anonymously under Instagram accounts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students and alumni of color are posting about their experiences with racism at three elite private schools in the Jacksonville area.

From being called racial slurs, to allegations faculty members at the school did nothing to discipline students who said racial slurs openly.

Students, faculty and alumni are posting their stories anonymously under Instagram accounts labeled BlackatBolles, BlackatBishopKenny and BlackatEpiscopal.

The Florida Times-Union was the first to report on the online platform posting stories of racism anonymously.

The principal of Bishop Kenny High School said he’s disheartened, but he’s listening.

The pages started popping up on Instagram last week. Most posters who shared stories signed off only with their class year.

Moderators for the account Black at Bolles said they have received more than 250 responses from black students, alumni, faculty and other students of color who say they were victims of racism while attending the school.

The posts are anonymous, so News4Jax can’t independently verify the comments or who is behind the post. Moderators say it’s the only way people feel comfortable sharing their stories.

“From an outside perspective, I think the stories that highlight faculty racism has been the most shocking because most people assume it’s mainly students saying/doing racists things when in actuality this is a systemic problem,” the Black at Bolles moderator told News4Jax in an email. “We were motivated to create this account because Black students do not have a voice on campus unless it is in line with the white status quo. Too many instances of racism have occurred, with no meaningful disciplinary actions taken.”

On Wednesday, the Black at Bolles page posted a video showing a former student using the n-word.

Staff at Bolles confirmed to News4Jax the student attended Bolles for one year and they had not seen the video until Wednesday.

One freshman student on the black at Bishop Kenny account anonymously posted: “I’ve heard people in my grade constantly using the n-word and making fun of me for being friends w mostly black people.”

A submission from a junior at the school was also posted saying: “I find this very hypocritical and to be completely useless for this isn’t going to do anything, but divide people.”

A junior at Episcopal posted anonymously: “Two boys in my science class started an argument with me that consisted of them claiming how black men/people weren’t intelligent.”

The principal at Bishop Kenny High School said he’s disheartened by the stories he’s reading.

“I would be remiss if I said that we haven’t had an incident in the past where we’ve had to deal with isolated incidents but the stuff that obviously when you read it and in the in the way it’s being written and in the quantity that it’s being pushed, it’s definitely, it’s right in front of you,” Bishop Kenny Principal Todd Orlando said. “They’re calling out specific students’ names, they’re calling out some of our teachers and it’s very hurtful.”

“We’re listening and we want to listen to what their experiences are so that we can address them and make some positive changes.”

The Black at Bishop Kenny moderator told News4Jax that Orlando has reached out to two students of color and is going to have a meeting with them soon to discuss what they can do to help students of color feel comfortable and welcomed at the school.

“We never would have thought that people would actually come out of their shells and express all of their hurt and experiences to post on our account,” the Bishop Kenny moderator said in an email. “This account would be nothing without the brave students who were willing to trust us and share their experiences.”

The moderator said there is just one black teacher at the school and the lunch workers, custodians, and maintenance workers are the only other black employees at Bishop Kenny High School.

“The school does not do enough to educate students and faculty on micro-aggressions and diversity,” the Bishop Kenny moderator said. “We have had submissions that stated that the only time they remember the acknowledgment of diversity was a simple slideshow they displayed during the school’s lunch during Black History Month compared to the various amounts of assemblies they have had about other topics, such as abortion or premarital sex.”

The board and president of The Bolles School said they have been reading posts on the Black at Bolles Instagram account and can see they need “to do better, to be better and to make change.”

In a letter to the community, the school said it plans to hire more people of color and are planning workshops for faculty, staff and students.

In a statement from Episcopal School of Jacksonville, the school says it was “painful to read the post shared on this account” and “are planning a series of forums” to be led by their awareness, inclusion and respect committee.

About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.