By Tayler Shaw at Colorado Community Media (Via AP Storyshare)
Black leaders in Colorado raised concerns on Wednesday about student safety following the spread of a video that showing a middle school student expressing hatred against Black people.
In the video, shared with Colorado Community Media, a child used a racial slur and said Black people should “not be alive right now.” The child said that he hates the color of their skin.
The Rocky Mountain NAACP, which called an “emergency” press conference on Nov. 15, said the video is of a West Middle School student. It was allegedly made in September.
The school is part of the Cherry Creek School District, which responded said that it was first made aware of the racist video in September. The district said it believed the video was created outside of a school setting by a student and shared in a group text with other students.
“The language in the video is hate-filled and we took swift action to address this unacceptable behavior,” the school district said in a statement. “Administration and law enforcement acted immediately to investigate the situation.”
The district added: “Students found to be responsible faced significant discipline and their parents were responsive to the severity of the situation. Due to the privacy rights of students, we cannot discuss specifics of discipline.”
Black leaders said the district has not done enough to ensure the safety of students.
Portia Prescott, the president of the Rocky Mountain NAACP, said that she has received comments from concerned parents about the video, which have been ongoing since it first surfaced about a month ago, expressing fear for students’ safety.
“We are late, obviously, two months later, but unfortunately, that’s how viral works,” Prescott said while standing outside of West Middle School in Greenwood Village, south of Denver, during the press conference. “It got to a bunch of kids.”
Prescott said a clip of the student was reshared online and eventually shared with children who showed it to their parents.
The district said West Middle School Principal Mónica García informed the school’s families on Sept. 29 of the video.
In that letter, made public amid the press conference this week, García said the school “dealt with some incidents of racist speech at our school and in our community,” calling it unacceptable. The principal included a resource for families to talk with children about discriminatory behavior and hate-motivated language.
Prescott said school leaders should have addressed the situation more publicly.
Vern L. Howard, the chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, said parents have expressed concern that the district did not handle the situation properly. He said the issue was serious enough to warrant involvement beyond the middle school.
“There should have been a district-wide email that went out to parents letting them know that this threat or this rhetoric existed and then how they handled it,” Howard said.
Howard said some parents who have concerns did not feel comfortable speaking at the press conference because they do not feel safe.
Prescott said the NAACP is shouldering a lot of complaints from parents because they feel like the school district is not listening.
“We need to talk about, ‘What is public safety for parents?’” she said.
She added that she does not want to blame anyone and that she views the video as a cry for help. “It’s not a parent issue, but it is all of our issues,” she said.
Prescott and Howard said they want to work with the community and the school district to protect students and make sure everyone feels safe.
“That’s why we’re here today,” Prescott said. “We’re here to come up with new solutions, to help the schools.”
This story from www.ColoradoCommunityMedia.com, which reports on news and events in two dozen communities in the Denver area.