No criminal charges will be filed, although the pair could face expulsion from school
Two students at Caesar Rodney have been suspended after they were identified as having posted an online photograph showing the district mascot holding a paper inscribed with a racial slur.
District spokesman Dave Chambers said CR High School principal Sherry Kijowski learned about the photograph Oct. 4 from a Twitter posting.
Detectives from the Delaware State Police were on hand at the school most of the day conducting their investigation into the incident, Chambers said. DSP spokesman Master Cpl. Gary Fournier confirmed the police activity at the Camden school.
Chambers released a statement at 3:45 p.m. saying the district, with assistance from state police, had identified two students as responsible for the photo.
Chambers did not identify the students by name but said they were from the high school. The mascot, a caricature of school namesake Caesar Rodney, is used throughout the district, which includes three middle schools, six elementary schools, and the McIlvaine Early Childhood Learning Center.
The students were immediately suspended and face further disciplinary action by the district school board, up to and including expulsion, Chambers said.
The state police were at the school most of the day to lend their expertise in investigating the incident, Fournier said.
“We have concluded our portion of the investigation and turned the results over to the Caesar Rodney School District,” Fournier said. He declined to comment on any details of the probe.
Nicole Magnusson, a spokeswoman for Denn’s office, said the school should pursue disciplinary actions but left the door open for possible future charges by the DOJ.
“Based upon information presented to the Delaware Department of Justice today, there is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges at this time,” she said in a statement. “DOJ will assess the results of the full investigation, including police reports and interviews, and any additional evidence that may be gathered before reaching a final conclusion on charging.”
Several questions remain unanswered about the photo, primarily whether a previous image of the mascot had been digitally altered or whether it was a new photograph of someone in the costume holding the racially-charged sign.
Addressing students and staff at the school Thursday, Kijowski said, “This behavior has absolutely no place in Rider Country.
“I assure you that we will do everything within our power to find the individuals responsible for this hateful message with the help of the Delaware State Police. I ask that you continue to be proud of your school and be the best version of yourselves.
“You define what it means to be a Rider, not a picture, not a post,” she said.
Fitzgerald added, “We understand our community and our students have been hurt by this message.
“This message is reprehensible and in no way represents our school district, our high school, our community and our students,” he said. “We are committed to providing a safe environment in which our students can learn and we do everything in our power to continue the proud tradition that we have for the last 102 years.”
A comparison of the online photo and one published in September 2015 in the Dover Post show the costume appears to be genuine. In the online photo, the mascot is holding a sign saying “****** don’t belong at CR.”
Online reaction to the incident has been swift and angry, with comment ranging from “disgusting and sad,” to “one moron wanting to stir up hate and chaos.”
Chambers said the district will discontinue using the mascot for the time being.
“The mascot has been put away for the rest of the year and there will be a community discussion prior to its' use in the future,” he said.
“Over the last three years many students have proudly worn the mascot uniform and have expressed their revulsion in the reprehensible language on the paper and the way in which the costume, school, and students have been defamed,” he said.