A video clip has sparked outrage after students at an Arizona high school were filmed reenacting George Floyd‘s murder. Floyd, a Black man, died on Memorial Day after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly 10 minutes as the Black man lay face down with his hands cuffed behind his back.
The Arizona Republic reported that the six-second clip began circulating the internet on Wednesday, April 28, showing a white student kneeling on the back of another white student’s neck at Highland High School in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. One student could be heard saying, “They’re demonstrating a Spanish word,” then laughs. Both students reenacting the murder stand up and appear to be in a classroom full of other students. The media outlet noted there was a Black girl in the class at the time of the reenactment. Remarks from people seemingly familiar with the school stated that this type of behavior was common.
Gilbert Public School District officials explained that a thorough investigation took place immediately after they became aware of the video. The school’s principal, Melinda Murphy, sent students and families a letter regarding the incident on Friday, April 30, stating the “parties involved were disciplined according to Gilbert Schools policy.”
“All breaches of Gilbert Public Schools student code of conduct are investigated to their full extent, and district policies and procedures are followed to deliver consequences,” a statement from the district said. “Gilbert Public Schools strives to create communities of inclusion, and any act of racism is in direct opposition to the values that we hold as a school district.”
The Arizona Republic reports that students on social media described the behavior in the video similar to other incidents at the school in recent years. Last year, The Republic did a study on more than a dozen racist incidents that took place at schools across the metro Phoenix area since 2016. Black students were interviewed and said that they believed racism was “embedded in the culture of schools across metro Phoenix.”
Hanaan Abdulle, a Muslim senior and the president of the Black Student Union on campus, said events like these “remind us where we are in our struggle” to make the high school an equitable place, an effort mirrored at the scale of the community at large.
The 18-year-old continued, “I don’t want to make it seem that the student recreating the murder of George Floyd is just a silly act of racism. These aren’t mistakes. These are premeditated. This is a hate crime. This is textbook hate crime.”
Abudlle, who has had her own experiences with racisms at the school, including people teasing her for wearing a hijab, told the newspaper Black students make up less than 100 of about 3,000 students at the school. “We’re a super minority,” she explained. “I have experienced being the only Black girl in class. Every member of the BSU has experienced being the only Black student in class.”
She says while BSU has made some progress, including hosting Black History Month and other events, there’s still a long journey ahead of them.