YULEE, Fla. – A video showing two white teenagers pointing at a camera and using a racial slur (one of them wearing a white hood) was not meant to be shared outside of a small group of friends, according to a statement from Nassau County School District Assistant Superintendent Mark Durham.
The statement clarified that the video was filmed before the school year began by two students who had not yet started classes at Yulee High School.
“The video was not meant to be shared outside of a small group of friends and it was not targeted at any particular student(s),” Durham said. “The two students in the video say they meant it as a joke amongst friends and did not intend for anyone outside of their small group to view it.”
Though the clip was filmed over the summer, it was recently shared by another student with a group of Black classmates via Snapchat. The group then confronted one of the two students who appeared in the video, sparking what the district described as a “physical altercation.”
The school disciplined both the students who were involved in the fight, and the student who forwarded the video clip, but not the students who appeared in the video.
Durham said that the district had no authority to punish students for behavior outside of school.
“While schools do have jurisdiction to discipline students for their on-line, off campus behavior under certain circumstances, this case did not meet the criteria,” Durham said. “While the school and district find this type of joke cruel and abhorrent and would discipline the students if legally permissible, the circumstances of this case just don’t allow it. However, the student who sent the video to several, specific students does meet the criteria necessary to punish a student for their on-line behavior. The student was assigned discipline consistent with the district’s code of conduct.”
The emergence of the video caused strife on the football team, with two of its members being suspended after the altercation. Several of their teammates planned to sit out of last Friday’s homecoming game, but parents say the players were told by Principal Yvon Joinville that if any player refused to participate in the game that the rest of their season would be forfeited.
The players staged a different gesture of solidarity on the field during the game, hoisting the jerseys of their suspended teammates aloft during the team’s walkout.
On Wednesday night, a group of more than two dozen parents of Nassau County students met to discuss the district’s handling of the situation, calling it unfair and inconsistent.
Many of them attended Thursday night’s school board meeting, including Christina Guerrier, a concerned parent.
“There is a false idea that racism is limited to name calling and physical violence, but its so much more than that,” Guerrier said. “The initial response from school administrators showed us that covert racism in the spotlight.”
“There’s been in our view, from the parents that I have spoken with, inconsistencies in the response, the communication to our kids, to me, suboptimal,” said Matthew Ricks, a parent. “I don’t understand why we haven’t worked better together to get through this and why it takes a group of parents yelling, literally me personally yelling and crying in district offices to get a response.”
Also speaking at the meeting Thursday night was Collin Sewel, who was the senior class president in for the class of 2021.
“This community and our country will see no change if we keep turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room,” Sewell said. “Reform, change, and equality will not come without your help.”