Headteacher apologises for ‘blacked up’ pupils

Stephen Lehec
Stephen Lehec

A grammar school head has apologised ‘unreservedly’ after tweeting a picture of pupils wearing black face makeup.

Aylesbury Grammar School’s headteacher Stephen Lehec was the subject of online complaints, after he posted an image of the three white and one mixed race pupil who dressed as the Jamaican bobsleigh team in homage to the film Cool Runnings.

The year 13 pupils also donned jumpsuits and carried a homemade bobsleigh, at the movie-themed event which was in celebration of the end of their school year.

But critics slammed Mr Lehec for posting the image on Twitter, as ‘blacking up’ has a historical background which might cause offence.

After reading the comments he deleted the tweet, and admitted that posting it was ‘poor judgement’.

He said: “Three of the boys ‘blacked up’ as part of dressing up as the characters.

“All of the students were enjoying their day of celebration and the experience, and at no time was there an undertone of any act being of a derogatory or racist nature.

“As with many of the groups and individuals on the day, pictures were taken some of which were posted on Twitter.

“It appears that one of those pictures caused offence and as soon as this was known, the picture was removed.

“It was not the intention of either the students or the school to cause offence and the school unreservedly 
apologises for any offence that was caused.

“The school accepts that it exercised poor judgement in not acting swiftly when it saw the boys concerned and it has taken steps to ensure that this does not happen at future school events.”

The end of term event, which took place on Friday, saw students dress in a variety of costumes ranging from Indiana Jones to The Smurfs.

The four boys arrived at the event singing a song from the 1993 film starring John Candy and Doug E Doug, which tells the true story of the bobsleigh team which defeated the odds to compete in the Winter 

Mr Lehec, who leaves his post at the end of this term was keen to distance the school, its staff and pupils from any allegations of racism.

He said: “Aylesbury Grammar School is multi-ethnic from both a student and teaching staff perspective, and a highly liberal and respectful school that does much to fight against racism, homophobia, bullying and any form of discrimination.

“The boys and staff operate in an environment of mutual respect and aspiration. I am sure that our parent and student body, as well as the wider community would attest to this.

He added: “Leavers day is always an emotional and yet fun-packed day, where students put a lot of time and effort into thanking their school and teachers whilst staff have the opportunity to wish the students every success in their exams and for the future in a relaxed and respectful environment.

“There is always a theme to the students’ activities, in particular in dressing up.

“This years them was films and film characters. The students picked the theme themselves and spent lots of effort creating a variety of costumes which included the

cheerleaders from High School Musical, Indiana Jones, The Smurfs and various super heroes.

“The students arrived at school in their uniforms and after school assembly were allowed to change into their costumes so the celebrations could commence.”

The Bucks Herald has seen the image in question, and received comments from Twitter users about the content of the tweet.

However, for legal and ethical reasons regarding the age of the pupils we have decided not to publish the picture.