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Roanoke County schools leader condemns offensive images shared in wake of Cave Spring football game
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Roanoke County schools leader condemns offensive images shared in wake of Cave Spring football game

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Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Ken Nicely on Monday condemned the “abhorrent, disturbing images” that circulated on social media over the weekend following a football game between Cave Spring and Hidden Valley high schools.

Cave Spring won Friday night’s contest against neighboring Hidden Valley 17-14, their first win against the Titans in a decade. The school system began investigating Saturday after community members reported a photoshopped image of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. Chauvin is currently on trial, charged with murder in Floyd’s death.

The altered image shows Cave Spring’s logo on Chauvin’s face and Hidden Valley’s logo on Floyd. (The Roanoke Times is not sharing the photo because of its graphic and offensive nature.)

The school system has since identified multiple offensive images, spokesman Chuck Lionberger confirmed Monday. He declined to describe the others but said they were “equally as deplorable.”

The photos “do not reflect the values of Cave Spring High School or Roanoke County Public Schools,” Nicely said in a statement. “We strive to provide positive, welcoming communities that value respect for all students and families. Educating all students about respect and creating positive, inclusive learning environments is at the center of our Positive Behavior Interventions and Support program which we are in the final stages of rolling out in all of our schools. Education is a process, but we will hold individuals accountable for their actions.”

Lionberger said the school division cannot comment on the individuals involved because of student privacy laws, but pledged that “we will be taking appropriate action.”

“Roanoke County Public Schools does not condone any behavior that could be considered racially offensive,” Lionberger said Saturday.

Roanoke County Public Schools is a majority-white school division. Approximately 80% of Cave Spring and 76% of Hidden Valley’s students are white; at both schools, approximately 5.8% of students are Black, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education.

The controversy also appears to have cost Cave Spring a final football game. Cave Spring had agreed to travel to Floyd County High School to play a “plus-one” game, which the Virginia High School League allowed for teams that do not make the playoffs in the COVID-19-shortened season. Floyd County now will play Bassett High at 7 p.m. Friday.

Staff writer Robert Anderson contributed to this report.

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K-12 Education Reporter

Claire Mitzel covers K-12 education for The Roanoke Times. Contact her at (540) 981-3334 or claire.mitzel@roanoke.com. Follow her on Twitter: @c_mitzel.

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