Elwood schools Superintendent Kenneth Bossert last year.

Elwood schools Superintendent Kenneth Bossert last year. Credit: Barry Sloan

A group of students at John Glenn High School in the Elwood school district “engaged in a string of hate-filled text messages” that gained national attention on social media, according to letters from district leaders.

As a result, there will be “additional historic perspectives from more diverse backgrounds” in the high school's curriculum, the school leaders said, responding to the “vile” exchange between students that involved racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic language.

Administrators addressed the exchange in two separate letters sent to the community earlier this month.

The group chat was screen-captured and shared widely on social media platforms. The messages in the chat were sent in early July, said Marissa Gallo, a district spokeswoman.

Elwood district has a student population of about 2,200, according to data from the state Education Department. The Suffolk County district serves residents in Elwood, Huntington, Greenlawn and East Northport.

John Glenn High School.

John Glenn High School. Credit: Arielle Dollinger

“Many of our students, family members and community members have reached out to the administration directly to express concern, alarm, and disgust,” school leaders said in a letter. “The administration is in full agreement that these words are hurtful, ignorant, and simply have no place in our society.”

Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said in a letter dated Aug. 4. that the high school administration was investigating the incident and those involved would be addressed “on an individual basis.”

Due to privacy laws, high school administrators said they would not disclose any specific actions they’ve taken, though “any form of hate speech or action will result in serious consequences,” read the second letter to parents, on Aug. 11. That letter was signed by high school Principal Carisa Burzynski, assistant principals Leroy Cole and Corey McNamara, and Bossert. 

The administrative leaders in the letter implored those who are angry about the language used in the group chat to refrain from posting or sharing threats.

“Please know that we must explore all incidents that include threats of violence or that contain additional inappropriate comments, particularly when this was done in retaliation for an egregious act,” the letter stated. “Simply put, two wrongs do not make a right.”

One parent of a student involved in the exchange declined to comment. Attempts to reach the other students’ families were unsuccessful.

The leaders said in the Aug. 11 letter that they will be “engaging in difficult conversations surrounding ideas of acceptance and against intolerance and hate. This will include a perspective of the privileges that are not shared evenly among demographic groups.”

They added that they will focus their efforts on “educating those who clearly need it most and those who have been directly linked to the inexcusable posts.”

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