‘I’ll Hang You Like the KKK’: Outraged Parents Call Out Upstate New York Sheriff’s Lenient Response to Racist Videos Threatening Black Students

A New York school district and sheriff’s department are under fire after allegedly failing to respond adequately to white students using social media, artificial intelligence, and live footage to threaten to intimidate or kill Black and Brown students.

Parents assert Putnam County School District’s first response to the bigoted TikTok videos downplayed the seriousness of the threats, which included coming to one of the schools with a machine gun to shoot African Americans. They also wonder why students who made the videos aren’t facing hate crime charges.

In the middle of 2023’s Black History Month commemoration, several Carmel High School students impersonated officials within the school district’s administration and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, dubbing them to say “abhorrent” racist remarks, according to The Journal News/lohud.com. The youth then took the videos and posted them on social media.

Carmel High School racist TikTok videos
Students walk outside Carmel High School in Carmel, New York. (Photo: YouTube/Eyewitness News ABC7NY Eyewitness News ABC7NY)

One of two videos posted by Carmel High School students shows a fictional school shooting at Carmel Middle School. It also includes threats directly targeted at Black students.

An overdubbed voice is heard, fixed to look as though George Fischer Middle School principal John Piscitella was speaking.

The video had a 37-second rant calling the Black students monkeys and the N-word. The voice also suggested the Black students go back to Africa and pointed out that there are people in the community that hate them because of their race.

At the end of the video, a voice says, “I am going to bring my machine gun to school.”

The second video, created the same way, has the overdubbed voice saying, I’ll hang you like the KKK. The KKK legacy will return.”

The clips hit the radar of the Carmel Central School District Board of Education around Sunday, Feb. 12, and on Wednesday, Feb. 15, officials released a statement.

It said, “As an organization committed to diversity and inclusion, the Carmel Central School District Board of Education is appalled at, and condemns, these recent videos, along with the blatant racism, hatred and disregard for humanity displayed in some of them.”

The statement continued, “Words in a statement alone feel inadequate. We must go beyond words. Collectively, we must work to end racism. We must look within ourselves and reflect on how we may be propagating racist stereotypes, policies and conditions.”

It added, “We do not tolerate discrimination, harassment or racism, either in our programs or from the members of our District. We hold everyone in our school system to standards of basic respect and human decency.”

The statement mentioned that the students used artificial intelligence to create them and that the system was investigating and possibly reprimanding the youth based on the district’s code of conduct. It did not share with parents and community stakeholders what was in the video and who made them.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s office got involved but said, according to sheriff Kevin McConville, none of the students’ actions violated any laws.

He celebrated how easy it was to work with the district on the investigation of the videos, saying, “It’s clearly a demonstration and good example of the collaborative effort between the sheriff’s office and the Carmel school district.”

Parents later learned what was in the videos and were furious. They said had they known what was said and the threats made, they would have kept their children home from school.

Pierre Claude, a parent of a Carmel middle-schooler, said, “The fact that we weren’t warned that our kids were in any kind of threat or danger in the moment is not OK.”

Another parent, Abigail Santana, said her middle school child saw other videos with similar content. These videos featured video game characters with guns running through their middle school.

One of those clips featured someone shooting Black and brown students while they were in a classroom.

Parents want to know why the videos are not investigated under acts of hate crimes.

Capt. Jim Schepperly said while the act is vile, it’s not criminal. What supported the sheriff’s office’s decision was determining the students’ intent.

Matthew Galluzzo, a Manhattan-based criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, explains it could be argued that the video that mentions bringing a machine gun to shoot Black students could be seen as a terroristic threat.

“We see conduct that needs to be corrected, addressed and punished. They’re not getting a pass,” he said.

Still, this is not enough for some. Parents believe it is plausible that the punished students might retaliate.

Parents are not the only ones upset. Some students are angry.

“Honestly it’s just an embarrassment to our school, I mean getting our name out in the news, making us feel embarrassed, bad reputation and all the kind of stuff,” one student said, according to ABC 7.

“I’ve seen these kids firsthand for 20 years,” said Wayne Ryder, a Carmel High School alum whose children also graduated from the school.

Carmel is not the only New York school system in crisis; so is the Middletown school district. High School students within its school district also reportedly posted a racist video on TikTok. This video featured two district employees dancing to a song that used the N-word.

This district letter said, “The video is disturbing to view and does not reflect or align with the core values our district and school community embody.”

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