Two teenage boys are suing their school for $20m (£14.3m) alleging they were “forced out” over a “blackface” photo which was actually green acne medication.
The pair were 14 when they took a topless selfie with another boy in California, US, in August 2017.
The duo and their parents are now reportedly suing St Francis High School in Mountain View after the image resurfaced online last June.
Their 93-page lawsuit launched in Santa Clara County Superior Court in August claims the exclusive Catholic school offered them an ultimatum to leave or be expelled.
The families say that one boy suffered from severe acne and had taken a pic with a white facemask a day prior to the green one.
They allege the school’s actions were a “virtue-signalling attempt to be perceived within the community as ‘fighting against racism’, regardless of the true facts and context.”
The school says the teens left voluntarily with the third boy going to a different school and not involved in the suit, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The boys, identified as H.H. and A.H. in the suit, and their parents also say the principal told them their removal was down to “optics” in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The lawsuit states: “At no time did the boys engage in ‘blackface,’ nor did they intend to do so or mimic doing so. Neither A.H. nor H.H. had even been aware of the term ‘blackface,’ let alone what it meant or signified.”
In a statement the two families added: “This lawsuit is our attempt to redeem our names and reputations, and to correct the record to reflect the truth of what actually happened.
“A photograph of this innocent event was plucked from obscurity and grossly mischaracterized during the height of nationwide social unrest.
“In conjunction with the school and the community, our families sought to be a part of a solution to this obvious misunderstanding, so that the entire (Saint Francis) community could get to a better place, and we were rebuffed by SFHS and its leadership, who seemed to have no interest in entertaining the truth.”
The school’s president Jason Curtis said: “St. Francis High School is committed to creating an educational environment where all students feel safe, welcome, and included.”