Right before homecoming, members of a California high school have been suspended from the remaining games in the 2022 season for participating in a racist prank. A viral video of some of the students staging a mock “slave auction” and pretending to sell their Black teammates to each other made it to the public eye — and administrators took action on what they considered a “reprehensible act.”
After officials in the Yuba City Unified School District viewed the disturbing footage on Thursday, Sept. 29, they made a decision that impacted the entire school community by canceling the remaining football season for the River Valley High School, according to CNN.
The video made the rounds, originally being shared by students in group chats. Eventually, it made its way to social media and garnered international attention.
One student said, “I seen it on TikTok. And I sit next to the guy that recorded the video, in my second-period [class] … It’s really shocking, because especially after I seen who [recorded it], because … I never thought he would do that.”
According to the Appeal Democrat, school officials and parents met for a private discussion at the River Valley library on Friday, Sept. 30. The highly sensitive meeting was closed to the public, including the media. The district enlisted the support of the Yuba City Police Department to escort the Appeal outside and away from the door.
Originally, the River Valley Falcons were only forced to forfeit the Friday, Sept. 30 night road game at Woodcreek in Roseville, but after the total number of team members were punished for their participation in the bigoted re-enactment, there were not enough eligible players left to compete and the season had to be forfeited.
Superintendent Doreen Osumi called the video “unacceptable” and “offensive.” Osumi said the young people who participated in the “unfortunate and extremely distressing incident” were blocked from competing because they willfully violated the district’s student-athlete code of conduct.
“They violated our student-athlete code of conduct which they all signed and committed to follow, and that will not be ignored or minimized,” Osumi said in a statement to the community according to KTLA. “As a result, we do not have the necessary number of players to safely field the varsity team and must thus forfeit the remainder of the season. Re-enacting a slave sale as a prank tells us that we have a great deal of work to do with our students so they can distinguish between intent and impact,” the district continued. “They may have thought this skit was funny, but it is not; it is unacceptable and requires us to look honestly and deeply at issues of systemic racism.”
Osumi, a woman of Asian ancestry, said yanking football may not be the only disciplinary consequence the teens may face, adding that the school will need to implement “education, honest, open discussion and instruction” around racism.
According to U.S. News and World Report, River Valley High School technically has an 82 percent minority enrollment.
41.4 % of the student body claims Hispanic or Latino descent. Asians make up about a third of the student body. Whites make up less than 20 percent and Black students are a little over 1 percent of the 1,859 populous student body.
There are about 28 Black students at the school.
“At this time, the District and site administration are working in earnest to identify lessons and programs to help our student body learn from this situation,” she said. “When students find humor in something that is so deeply offensive, it tells me that we have an opportunity to help them expand their mindset to be more aware, thoughtful, and considerate of others.”
Osumi believes the incident demonstrated one thing to the Northern California city … “we have a great deal of work to do with our students.”
As for the varsity team members that did not participate in the video, slots have been made for those sophomores and juniors to play with the junior varsity team. JV will continue its normally scheduled season with the next game scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. The team will play against the Inderkum High School team on their home field.