School officials said they have expelled a Millington High School student for posting a “very inappropriate” online image of a Michigan State Police trooper addressing students about appropriate uses of social media after another Millington student was accused of posting a racist image of a rival basketball player.
Trooper Mark Swales addressed Millington High School students March 3, following a Feb. 15 incident when Millington High students were accused of photoshopping a monkey’s face over the face of a LakeVille Memorial High School basketball player, and distributing the image via social media.
The photo was of the player and his girlfriend.
Millington Police Chief Jason Oliver alleges that a Millington student created a caption to accompany the doctored online image that read: “Help! This girl seems to have lost her monkey. If you see ‘it’ please contact 1-800 animal control.”
A student who attended Swales’ speech on March 3 posted a “very inappropriate picture of Trooper Swales that the student had doctored up with whatever app he was using at the time, and then that got posted to one of the social media sites,” said Bruce Martin, Millington Community Schools superintendent.
A Millington student created a “humiliating” image of the officer after shooting a photo of him during the assembly, Oliver said. Following a March 6 closed session of the Millington Board of Education, the board expelled the student, Martin said.
Oliver said James Vines, the LakeVille boys’ varsity basketball coach who is the uncle and guardian of LakeVille senior basketball player Darrell Washington, is the complainant in a police investigation of two Millington High students.
Martin was asked if disciplinary action has been taken against the two students investigated in connection with the alteration of the photo of Washington and his girlfriend.
“That’s protected under student privacy, but I can’t get into discipline or what the consequences were or anything, but they were not expelled from the district,” Martin said.
Millington school district officials also investigated the two students after one created the social media post and the other forwarded it to others following a basketball game between Millington and rival LakeVille, Martin said.
“Things got a little intense, obviously, because we’ve had a strong rivalry with LakeVille for many, many years,” Martin said. “So after the game, one of our students created a social media post that was derogatory toward one of the LakeVille players, based off a previous picture that I think the player and his girlfriend had taken a few nights earlier, at a different game,” Martin said.
“One of our students found (the photo) and photoshopped it — or whatever the kids call it nowadays — and changed the picture and then sent it to a couple kids. Then one of our students saw it and forwarded it to other people. That’s when the LakeVille family found out about it, because obviously in social media, news travels fast.
“As it passed around through people, it ended up making its way to the LakeVille family from somebody. They obviously were upset as they should have been, and they went to the media and they went to the Millington police to ask them to investigate.”
Oliver told the Millington Village Council on Monday night that he has forwarded reports on both of the alleged “cyberbullying” incidents to Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene.
The Advertiser could not reach Reene to determine the status of any criminal charges in connection with either case.
The Advertiser could not reach Vines for comment. Vines told mlive.com that “As a black man, I was offended” by the altered photo.
When asked if he believes the creation of the doctored photo and the distribution of the image constitutes racism, Martin said “I certainly do.”
“The actions of the two students in no way reflects the views or beliefs of the school district and the community of Millington,” Martin said. “I don’t want people to think that those two students are speaking on behalf of the district or the community, and as superintendent, I’m personally ashamed and embarrassed that two of our students would do something like this, and I have personally apologized to the LakeVille family and the student.”
Oliver said the student expelled after allegedly creating the image of Trooper Swales is being investigated for other activities.
“It isn’t the only incident that he was involved in that day — there were other things,” Oliver said. “But that’s something that I’m not going to comment on because it’s still an open investigation on that part of it.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org