November 8, 2017 / 8:53 PM / a year ago

U.S. Air Force Academy says black student wrote racial slurs

(Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force Academy said a black cadet candidate at its preparatory school wrote the racist remarks that targeted him and four others and prompted the academy’s leader to tell cadets to “get out” if they could not be tolerant.

FILE PHOTO: Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, discusses his goals and priorities to an audience of Total Force Airmen at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado, U.S. on August 17, 2017. Courtesy Mike Kaplan/U.S. Air Force/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

The racial slurs were discovered in September on message boards outside the dormitory rooms of five black students at the school in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The academy said on Tuesday that one of the cadet candidates turned out to be the culprit and was no longer enrolled at the prep school. It gave no further details about the student or the timing of the departure.

“The individual admitted responsibility and this was validated by the investigation,” Lieutenant Colonel Allen Herritage, an academy spokesman, said in the statement.

The academy’s prep school provides a 10-month program that gives about 240 students a year the chance to train and study to become full-fledged freshman cadets.

The slurs spurred academy superintendent Lieutenant General Jay Silveria to give an impassioned speech telling the student body to reject racism and embrace diversity.

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out,” Silveria said in the five-and-a-half minute speech that has been viewed 5.3 million times on Facebook and at least 1.1 million times on YouTube.

Silveria said the issues he discussed still needed to be addressed despite the investigation’s findings.

“You can never over-emphasize the need for a culture of dignity and respect - and those who don’t understand those concepts aren’t welcome here,” Silveria said in an email on Tuesday that was published by The Gazette in Colorado Springs.

Academy spokesman Herritage also stressed in his statement that the institution would not tolerate racism.

“We will continue to create a climate of dignity and respect for all, encourage ideas that do so, and hold those who fail to uphold these standards accountable,” he said.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Colleen Jenkins

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