UPDATE: Henrico County Public Schools announced Friday that they will not allow the Short Pump Middle School football team to continue playing its remaining games of the season, following revelations of a disturbing video depicting racial and sexual abuses against black student athletes.
"The Henrico School Board is deeply concerned by the actions of students in the video taken," the school board wrote. "Adamantly, behavior of this type will not be tolerated in our schools."
The Henrico School Board shared their letter in a tweet on Friday afternoon.
The board stated that "the remaining football games for the SPMS football team will be forfeited." Yet the school will still allow practices to continue, requiring that "a mandatory component of practices [will] focus on reporting responsibilities, accountability, ethics, sexual harassment, and racial tolerance."
The board also stated that it would be developing a plan to address bigotry and harassment in the schools themselves, not just for athletes. "Our hope is to use this very unfortunate event as a meaningful learning opportunity for students moving forward," the letter stated.
The video in question, which was disseminated throughout the school via Snapchat, showed several white students on the football team making racially insensitive comments toward black players. They also held some black students down against their will in the locker room, mimicking sexual acts on them while doing so.
Some students reacted bitterly to the news that their season was over. “I don't know why they're punishing us,” one anonymous player told the local NBC affiliate. “As a player that didn't have anything to do with it, it's kind of a kick in the gut.”
Yet that attitude is precisely why administrators are making the right choice. The incident wasn’t discovered by school officials because an anonymous student from the football team reported the abuses — it took a social media viral video, making the rounds across the district, before action was taken.
Students who didn’t do anything to stop or report the abuse in the video deserve to have their season cut short, too — a point the school board states in their letter.
“We acknowledge that all team members were not involved in the incident,” they wrote. “However, we believe there are important lessons/reminders that should be reinforced with all team members,” including when to report the actions of their fellow teammates.
A racially disturbing video has parents alarmed over what appears to be white students sexually and physically assaulting black students in a middle school locker room.
Short Pump Middle School, in Short Pump, Virginia, became aware of the video after it was circulated on the social media site Snapchat. Parents, understandably upset with the images they saw, reported it to the school, which said they were taking the appropriate steps to address the abuse.
In the video, white students in the boys locker room shout racially-charged threats to the black students who are pinned down to the locker room's floor and benches. The black students appear helpless as the white students mockingly thrust themselves onto them, mimicking acts of sexual violence.
“We gonna (expletive) the black outta these African children from Uganda,” said one white student in the video.
The video included the caption, “Ever wonder what happens in the football locker room?”
Andy Jenks, the spokesperson fo Henrico Schools, said the school was taking action.
“We are aware of the video, the contents of which are offensive and wrong,” he told NBC12. “The school division will take appropriate action in accordance with our normal procedures. Beyond that, federal law prohibits school divisions from sharing additional information about students.”
One parent, speaking anonymously to protect the identity of her child at the school, said that the situation should never have been allowed to happen in the first place.
“Racism should not be tolerated,” the parent said. “... You should be able to send your kids to school and feel they are being protected and safe.”
Schools are designed to be places where every child can go to receive a quality education. Incidents like these make students fearful to return, or otherwise cause great emotional damage to students, including those who weren’t even directly involved. The school must take proactive steps to address this situation.
Schools across this country need to further acknowledge that racism is still prevalent in our society. The best way to ensure incidents like this never happen is to prevent them in the first place — that starts with teachers and administrators having necessary conversations with students and their parents.
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