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Canadian Teen Suspended For Speaking Out About Racist Photo

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A Canadian teenager received a two-day suspension from her high school for drawing attention to a classmate's racist photo on Twitter. 

Paige Sernowski, 16, of Edmonton, Canada, spotted the racist image on Snapchat, a photo and video sharing network, on Feb. 11, CBC News reported. The photo, which was reportedly taken and posted by another student at M.E. LaZerte High School, depicted a black female student in the school hallway with the words "Get out of my way n-----" written underneath it.

After discovering the image, Paige posted it to Twitter with the comment, "are you seriously f------ to post that on your story…racism is everywhere."

Her tweet was shared nearly 100 times before administrators at the high school asked her to delete it, promising that she would not be disciplined if she did.

Paige removed the tweet at school officials' request, but was still called into the office the next day.

"He started saying what I did was wrong, and that I should be punished and I should suffer consequences," Paige told CBC News about the teacher who handled her case. "I just didn't understand why I should suffer any consequences for trying to make my voice heard, trying to say that racism is very wrong."

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The teen was suspended for two days. A letter sent home to her parents confirmed that she received the punishment for "...taking a snapshot of an inappropriate posting on Snapchat and posting it on Twitter."

Nasri Warsame, the father of the black student depicted in the photo, said he couldn't believe Paige was suspended for speaking out about racism.

"I feel very troubled and I have sympathy for that girl," Warsame told CBC News. "What she has done was amazing. And I will say, keep going, you are doing good things. That [punishment] was wrong and against the policy of encouraging people to come forward."

Warsame added that his daughter, 17, no longer felt safe riding the bus to school after the photo came out and has asked him to drive her instead.

"She's a very good student but this made her feel in a different way, and she takes a different approach now to school, and is so hesitant to go to school," he said.

Due to student privacy laws, school officials have declined to reveal what actions, if any, were taken against the student who posted the original Snapchat photo.

Paige has received a flood of support from the Edmonton community for her actions.

"Whistleblowers should be protected," Ahmed Abdulkadir, a human rights activist who works with the local black community, said in another CBC News article. "What she did was commendable, because without her no one would know it what's going on." 

"For them to suspend, it's unbelievable," he added.

The city's Center for Race and Culture has written a letter to the superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools, as well as school board trustees and the principal of M.E. LaZerte High School, urging them to implement specific measures to help students and staff address racial discrimination at the school.

The suggestions listed include providing anti-racism training to school staff and developing leadership programs for students. 

Sources: CBC News (2) / Photo credit: Snapchat via CBC News

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