According to a Snapchat shared with VICE News, students at a small high school in rural Pennsylvania wore “White Lives Matter” shirts to their last day of classes, as well as interviews with community members. And the school is said to have done little to address the students’ behavior.
“They were sent home from school. It was the LAST DAY. There were NO other repercussions. They even went to prom the very next night,” one source told VICE News. “Some of them are seniors going off to represent OUR school and town.”
Five Montgomery Area High School students are pictured wearing white T-shirts with “White Lives Matter” scrawled across the front in black text that appears to be handwritten against a backdrop of vehicles. One of them was even seen sticking his middle finger up at the camera.
“One of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen happen in Montgomery,” reads the caption of the Snapchat. “Only reason you did this was to piss people off and look like a complete racist, not funny at all.”
Out of concern for their safety, four sources spoke to VICE News about Snapchat, asking to remain anonymous. They said that their little Pennsylvania community of fewer than 2,000 residents has a reputation for tolerating bigotry while penalizing those who speak up against it. Some have even claimed to have received threats.
“Each graduating class has roughly 45-60 kids per class,” the source told VICE News. “So in a town like this, you don’t really go against the grain, or you are bullied and ostracized.”
According to sources, the latest White Lives Matter incident at the school erupted in the town after the Snapchat was shared on Facebook and Reddit. One resident even addressed a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.
“I am ashamed for the town which prides itself in having such a great school,” Sherry Lee Havonbrook wrote in the letter. “I’m horrified for the targeted students, staff, and those that attend that do not align with such bigotry. I hope things get better, but I’m disgusted.”
The letter sparked a whirlwind of responses on the paper’s website, with the majority of them concentrating on racist “All Lives Matter” rhetoric.
“But BLM shirts are OK?? What a bigoted character you are,” one person wrote in a comment.
However, this isn’t the first time Montgomery High has been the center of a racist dispute. According to Hill and another source, the school held a “Slave Day” where pupils were auctioned off to one other and professors and forced to perform whatever their “purchaser” required.
“They would be made to carry around others’ books or do others’ homework,” Hill said. “Teachers would make them clap erasers, scrub toilets, etc. Sometimes in silly or humiliating outfits. The money went to senior class activities.”
The source told VICE News, “This was not even 10 years ago.”
The name of the day has recently been changed to “Senior Auction.”
Hill further claimed that the school has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ practices, claiming that prom dates had to be of the opposite gender identification. Coming out at school, he added, not only resulted in harassment but also proved to be exceedingly dangerous.
“I am only aware of a single student who was openly gay throughout my entire time at school,” Hill said. “The family moved into the district and, I did not witness it, but I was told the girl had been beaten up pretty badly after inquiring about a relationship with another female student and did not return to school after that. The family moved away a couple of weeks later.”
Students wearing the White Lives Matter slogan, for many in Montgomery, is just another piece of evidence of a lack of knowledge and inclusivity. And everyone who spoke with VICE News expressed a wish for their community to reform and begin confronting racism.
One source said, “These boys have not apologized or been reprimanded. Montgomery perpetuates racism and, by not holding them accountable, allows it.”