Utah school officials are investigating after video posted to social media this week shows a group of white teens shouting the N-word and other offensive expletives.
Administrators at Weber High School said they were made aware of the video Monday, Oct. 16, and began their investigation Tuesday morning when they could meet with the students involved, according to the Deseret News. The 10-second clip features five junior and senior girls screaming “f–k n—-s!” as they smile and laugh.
Weber School District spokesman Lane Findlay said all the teens have been identified as Weber High School students, three of whom are on the cheerleading squad.
“Behavior like this, whatever their intentions were, whether they were just goofing around or whatever, it’s unacceptable. It just can’t happen,” Findlay said. “We just want people to know it will be taken very seriously, and appropriate action will be taken.”
“Hatred only breeds more hatred,” he added. “These are teens who made a big mistake, and they will be held (accountable). Please be patient and reasonable as we deal with this situation.”
The video, which was originally uploaded to Instagram, quickly made its rounds on social media, garnering over 12,000 views on Facebook alone, the newspaper reported. Fellow students and parents expressed outrage over the footage and demanded that the girls be disciplined or kicked off the cheerleading team altogether.
According to Findlay, the video appears to have been recorded a year ago when the girls got together during fall break. He said they recorded themselves speaking gibberish, then used an app that played it backwards to make it sound like the racial slur used against Black Americans.
One of the girls recently shared the video through a private post on her social media, which was ultimately re-shared by a Black student at the predominately white high school.
“I thought people were better than this, especially my so-called ‘friends,’ ” footballer Tyrell Barnett wrote on Twitter earlier this week, with a clip of the video attached.
Barnett’s family said their son felt compelled to post the video because it was offensive and hurtful to a lot of people, including himself, local station Fox 13 reported. They said their son has also received negative text messages from the families of the teen girls involved, demanding that he apologize for re-sharing the video.
“We do not believe that there is any blame to be directed toward Ty as he was only responding to a very hurtful and offensive video,” Barnett’s family said in a statement. “Our family has never dealt with something of this magnitude ever in the past. Please know that our family is heartbroken over this incident and truly do not wish for anyone to cause harm of any type to these girls.”
Findlay, who said he reviewed the footage over a dozen times and initially believed the girls were saying the slur outright, said he took a closer look and realized their lip movement and pronunciation seemed a bit off.
“You watch it and it does appear they’re engaged and involved in it,” he said. “It doesn’t appear it was accidental by any means.”
While the video wasn’t taken on school property or during school hours, the district is still investigating on account of the furor it has caused at school, the spokesman noted. School officials are still determining how the girls will be disciplined but advised them to stay home from school Tuesday until the incident was thoroughly reviewed.
Findlay said so far, administrators have spoken to three of the five girls, all of whom expressed remorse over the video. Weber High School principal Velden Wardle also met with faculty Tuesday to update them on the situation and address concerns over how other students might’ve been impacted.
“We’re not really sure what the intent was behind the video being made, but obviously the impact of it has been very negative,” Findlay said. “So when you look at the situation, you hope it would be learning experience — not just for these girls, but for other kids who see that, even though this is a 10-second video, the consequences could be long term.”