A high school student from Minnesota has spoken out about being falsely accused of sending vile racist messages to black classmates, after the incident was exposed as a hoax.
Avery Severson, a sophomore at White Bear Lake High School near St. Paul, was falsely accused of sending the racist direct messages, prompting outrage and a student walkout.
But school officials said that an FBI investigation revealed that the female student who created the hateful messages wanted ‘to raise awareness of social and racial injustice’ by staging the stunt. They refused to name the true perpetrator.
‘I was just shocked when I saw that they were accusing me and I felt unsafe. I felt unsafe at school,’ Avery told Fox News on Friday.
Avery Severson, a sophomore at White Bear Lake High School near St. Paul, was falsely accused of sending racist direct Instagram messages to black classmates
Classmate Precious Boahen was one of the recipients of the racist slurs, and rallied the school in protest over the incident. Officials refuse to say who staged the hoax
‘I had an escort walk me to and from class. I just felt unsafe in my community. Adults were even posting the screenshots’ of the racist messages she was blamed for, Avery said.
Avery explained that for about a year, she had been attempting to organize a campus chapter of Turning Point USA, the conservative youth group.
School officials told her she needed to gather at least 20 students before she could start the club.
‘And the last couple of weeks, we got close to that number and then these rumors online started going around about me, accusing me of sending racist, terrible, hateful messages to a black student at my school with no evidence pointing to me,’ Avery said.
Screenshots first published by WCCO-TV show the racist Instagram messages sent by the anonymous account @GoWhiteBear, a reference to the school name.
‘Leave my school n*****,’ reads one message. ‘You n*****s need to leave White bear.’
Screenshots first published by WCCO-TV show the racist Instagram messages sent by the anonymous account @GoWhiteBear, a reference to the school name
The messages express anger at a ‘black people club’ an apparent reference to the Black Excellence student group, and seem to try to frame Avery, who was trying to start a conservative student group
‘You guys are racist for having a black people club. If I make a club I’m racist,’ one message said, in an apparent attempt to frame Avery for the messages by referencing her attempt to start a conservative student group.
‘The principal doesn’t even like the black club he said he just letting it happen because our school is diverse,’ another message said, apparently referencing the school’s Black Excellence Club.
According to KSTP-TV, another despicable message read: ‘That’s why George Floyd died can’t wait until everyone your color leaves like that.’
‘You should get hanged. You’re a dirty African girl. Nobody wants you here. Go to a black school, This is WHITE bear lake,’ another read.
White Bear students of all races reacted with anger and shock at the racist messages, with the student body conducting a walkout in protest.
Precious Boahen, one of the apparent targets of the messages, led the charge.
‘The school needs to protect us. School is a place where we’re supposed to be able to be safe and learn,’ she said addressing a student rally.
‘Somebody really took the time out of their day to send death threats to me and my beautiful friends just because we are a little darker than the rest of y’all,’ said Precious.
Other students in the Black Excellence Club were also targeted by the messages, and spoke out in interviews with local media.
‘I’m still in shock. I know racism is still a thing, but I didn’t know people would take it to this extent. This is way too far. This is honestly just ridiculous. I feel hurt, I’m irritated, I’m angry, I’m uneasy. I just want to cry. I want to scream,’ senior Jessica Kabbe told ABC affiliate KSTP.
Students at White Bear staged a walkout in protest over the hateful messages
Students rallied to show their support for black classmates and opposition to racism
The student body at White Bear Lake High School South Campus is 76 percent white, 7 percent Asian, 6 percent Hispanic, and 6 percent African American.
Earlier this week, White Bear Lake Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak admitted that the messages were a ‘hoax’ in a note to families, Minnesota news site Bring Me The News reported.
He later apologized for using the term ‘hoax’, saying on Wednesday that he in no way intended to ‘minimize the impact that racism or racist acts has on students and families who have been marginalized throughout history and in White Bear Lake Area Schools.’
White Bear Lake School District issued a further statement on Wednesday attempting to clarify the situation.
‘With the assistance of the FBI, a juvenile female has been identified as the creator of this anonymous account,’ the district said.
‘The juvenile involved indicated during the investigation that the purpose of their post was to raise awareness of social and racial injustice due to past incidents that occurred at school, the statement added.
‘We shared this information with the school district and added that the investigating officers believe the juvenile does not pose a physical threat,’ it continued.
‘Nevertheless, the postings have caused tangible fear and alarm throughout our community,’ the statement hastened to add.
‘It is critical to acknowledge the importance of these conversations related to racial equity and justice affixed to this incident, and to commit to on-going dialogue that leads to meaningful outcomes.’
School officials are withholding the identity of the student who sent the anonymous messages.