Arkansas high school students staged a sit-in on their campus after a Black student was suspended for an equal amount of time as a white student who picked a fight with him during school hours.
Instigators filmed the altercation and posted it on social media, sparking several discussions, including questioning the administration’s response to bullying and systemic racial bias in the school’s discipline of young people.
The now-viral video has racked up thousands of views and shares.
The fight, instigated by a white student, took place in a locker room at Fordyce High School. It is unclear exactly when the incident took place, but it was posted to Twitter on Feb. 25 by a local activist.
Cellphone video shows a Black teen getting dressed, as the “white bully” is bombarding him with vulgar statements about the child’s mother.
The Black teen is seen trying to ignore those insults, and at one point tries to walk away, as the bully is encouraged by other boys to continue the onslaught of verbal attacks and threatens to physically assault him. The video clip, which lasts a little over 2 minutes, shows the Black boy eventually responding after being hit by an object and pushed by the larger white aggressor.
At one point, the white teen places the Black boy into a headlock until, ultimately, the student is left lying unconscious on the floor. While he is knocked out, the white kid kicks him in the head and stomps him on his back.
The unsupervised students were never interrupted by a teacher or coach, and it has not been reported how long the Black child was left unconscious on the floor.
School officials allegedly suspended both students for ten days, despite video showing the Black child was attacked first, tried to de-escalate the situation, and, according to Fox 16, had previously reported that he was being bullied.
In protest of this decision, members of the student body decided to protest by organizing a sit-in on Friday, March 4. Their goal is to make the school pay more attention to reports of bullying and commit to taking action against those who bully other students.
Students were also alarmed and objected to both students being disciplined.
A video showed the principal addressing the children, saying he “admires” them engaging their “right” to protest. But also said the school has investigated the fight “thoroughly” and that it “went as far up the handbook” as it could to align with school policy.
He told the students they are interrupting school, especially several “important people on campus” that want to help the administration get “programs” for the next year, implying that the protest is impeding that progress.
The students became restless with his remarks, and one young lady asked, “Why, if this has been going on since November, why didn’t y’all deal with it then?”
Another responded, “that boy is trained in martial arts,” referring to the white teen.
The school’s student government president stood up after the principal told him to show his leadership and get control of the situation. The Black student stood up and said, “I trust the school system, but if this does not get handled properly, then we will [continue to protest].”
The president thanked the principal for allowing the protest and said that he “really hopes” the Black student gets an apology.
The principal then tells the students to go to their next period, and the video shows them responding in an overwhelming “no!”
Fordyce School District Superintendent Judy Hubbell declined to comment on details of the incident, stating that it was “confidential information,” reports Camden News.
Hubbell said, “This video came to light about two days ago and we can’t discuss student discipline because that is confidential information. We are in the process of investigating this case and taking care of it.”
“We don’t want bullying on our campus,” she continued. “We want to have a safe campus, but this just came to light, and we are working on this, we are talking through the process. There have been disciplinary measures, but I can’t tell you what those measures are. I can’t tell you who’s involved or anything like that.”
State Rep. Jamie Scott and state Sen. Joyce Elliott have reached out to the city’s department of education on this issue.
Elliott tweeted, “Somebody from the Fordyce [School] District must defend the suspension of the bullied student. This is nuts. What the hell was he supposed to do? There is no equivalency here!”
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