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Air Force: Racial slurs written by 1 person who was targeted

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2017 file photo, academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria speaks about race relations to U.S. Air Force cadets during lunch at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP, File)

Racial slurs posted outside the dorm rooms of five black students at the Air Force Academy were written by one of those students, the school said Tuesday.

The announcement was a jarring turn in an episode that prompted the academy's superintendent to warn students that racists were not welcome at the school ā€” a speech that attracted nationwide attention.

The student is no longer at the school, the academy said. A spokesman declined to say whether the student withdrew or was expelled, citing privacy laws. The student's name wasn't released.

The slurs were found in September at a dormitory that houses students attending the academy's prep school. The prep school is on the academy grounds but not part of the four-year academy program. It helps promising students meet the academy's entrance requirements.

In a written statement Tuesday, the academy said, "We can confirm that one of the cadet candidates who was allegedly targeted by racist remarks written outside of their dorm room was actually responsible for the act. The individual admitted responsibility and this was validated by the investigation."

The statement added, "Racism has no place at the academy, in any shape or form."

Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria gave his stern speech to cadets shortly after the slurs were reported. A video of the speech was posted online and has been viewed thousands of times.

"If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, get out," he said.

At one point, he insisted that everyone in the audience take out their phones and record him so his message was clearly heard.

The slurs appeared in the aftermath of racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and amid a debate about NFL players kneeling for the national anthem.

"We would also be tone deaf not to think about the backdrop of what is going on in our country," Silveria told cadets. "Things like Charlottesville, Ferguson, the protests in the NFL."

Silveria stood by his speech Tuesday, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

"Regardless of the circumstances under which those words were written, they were written, and that deserved to be addressed," he said in an email to the newspaper. "You can never over-emphasize the need for a culture of dignity and respect ā€” and those who don't understand those concepts, aren't welcome here."

Silveria, a veteran fighter pilot who directed the air war in the Middle East, took command at the school in August. He graduated from the academy in 1985 and has repeatedly told cadets and staff that his highest priority is ensuring a climate of dignity and respect.

The academy has struggled with sexual misconduct problems several times in recent years, but few racial incidents have been made public.

The academy, outside Colorado Springs, has about 4,000 students. The prep school usually accepts about 240 students.

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