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SCASD Responds to Racist Video Made by State High Student

by on October 04, 2019 12:31 PM

State College Area School District administrators said in a statement on Friday that State High students involved in a racist video shared on social media will "be held accountable for their behavior."

Superintendent Bob O'Donnell and State High principal Curtis Johnson wrote in a letter sent to all school district families that they were notified on Thursday night about the video, which was created outside of school and was shared by another student.

The students involved have been identified. The video, according to individuals who saw it, reportedly showed a student using racist slurs.

"We feel concern for our community and acknowledge the hurt caused by this video," O'Donnell and Johnson wrote. "In our district, we have no tolerance for racist behavior and will always address these acts immediately.

"While this act didn’t happen in school, our student handbook states that behavior causing a school disturbance will have consequences. Therefore, the students involved will be held accountable for their behavior."

A statement from the district said they would not comment further on disciplinary action or what the video contained.

Lorraine Jones, a member of Central PA Standing Up for Racial Justice, wrote in a SCASD parents and families Facebook group that her organization's leadership has seen the video and that it included "an alleged State High School student is shouting epithets defaming Asians and African Americans."

Jones wrote in an email that SURJ and the newly formed State College chapter of the NAACP are hoping to meet with administrators to discuss actions to support students of color.

"SURJ leadership has viewed this video and spoke with several students of color that were outraged and hurt by the racial slurs in the video," Jones wrote. "... It is our immediate goal to ensure that an investigation of the incident takes place and urge the school district to provide support for the targeted groups. We encourage all parents with youth that attend State High to be especially mindful and proactive to minimize the harm resulting from this unfortunate incident."

O'Donnell and Johnson said their first step was to meet "as a leadership team to address the situation and initiate a response." High school teachers were informed and given guidance on ways to support students. Counselors, administrators and representatives from the district's Office of Equity and Inclusivity also were available to answer questions and help facilitate discussions.

Families were provided a list of suggestions, similar to what teachers received, for having a discussion with their children about the incident. They included: stating that you know what happened; recognizing the offensive nature of it and the hurt it has caused; affirming that support is available and that the school is taking action, including that there will be consequences for the students involved. The letter also included links to a tip sheet and guide on how to discuss hate-related incidents from the Anti-Defamation League and taped webinars on how to discuss race with kids from EmbraceRace.

"While today is a tough day, we stand firm on our core belief of equity and inclusivity fo rall of our students," O'Donnell and Johnson wrote.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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