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Spirit Week, a fun event for high school students that allows teens to get creative with costumes and sport their school pride, was shaken up when a North Virginia teen showed up as a slave for “Throwback Thursday.”

A Heritage High student wore the costume with fake blood smeared on the back of his shirt. The tag, “Property of Heritage High,” was also written on the bottom of the white tunic.

The teen, who is Black, was seen carrying a bag of cotton balls and leaving a trail of them in the school halls. School administrators didn’t see the teen breaking any rules and believed he was actively expressing free speech. According to NBC Washington:

A school spokesman said Heritage High administrators greeted the student at the door last Thursday morning.

“They said, ‘Look, you are really pushing the boundaries here. This is a tasteless costume. It’s not disrupting the boundaries per se. Now if anybody [came] to us during the day with strong objections and says [it’s] disruptive, then the costume comes off,’” said Wayde Byard, Loudoun County Schools spokesman.

“There is a very fine line here between free speech and good taste. As we know, free speech is not always tasteful speech,” said Byard. “The student was making a statement. There was no disruption.”

Byard says the student was banned from entering the school’s costume contest. He also mentioned that if the student was white, it would give them reason to full take action against the teen.

“Had it been a white student instead of an African-American student, obviously that might have incited some racial tension,” he said.  “That might have been a different story.”

A handful of parents plan to file a complaint about the debacle. Byard continues to stand by the school’s choice to not fully punish the teen.

Offensive or informative? Is it okay to allow a Black student to make a statement doing something that might have landed a White student in trouble?

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