Two Fayetteville students disciplined after racist video posted

Posted: February 2, 2018 at 1 a.m.

The Fayetteville Public Schools McClinton Administration Building Tuesday, November 7, 2017 in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two high school students were disciplined after making a racist video deemed disruptive by the school's administration.

The eight-second video posted on an Instagram account is a recording of a video from a Snapchat message. The video shows two white teens using derogatory racial language. The Instagram video has been viewed more than 10,000 times and shared on a variety of social media platforms.

Fayetteville Public Schools Disciplinary Policy

The full 5.17 Student Discipline policy can be read online here.

Diamond Terry, a ninth-grader at the high school, said she was the one who shared the video on Instagram. She said she did so "because I felt like people need to know what type of people are still in this world."

While she knew a few people would see it, she said she didn't think it would have so many views.

"All of the responses show people really care about the situation," Terry said.

School officials didn't identify the students who were disciplined but confirmed the video is the one produced by two students.

Fayetteville High School's administration has investigated the matter, and disciplinary actions were taken in alignment with the Student Discipline Policy, according to a School District news release.

Fayetteville Public Schools received this statement from the students and their parents Wednesday afternoon, according to the release: "We made a crude video recently that was posted on social media sites. We were wrong, and we sincerely apologize for what we said and for the harm that was caused at Fayetteville High School and in our family. In no way does this video reflect who we are as people, how Fayetteville High School expects us to act, or the values that our parents teach us and exemplify at home. We accept full responsibility for our actions. Our intention is to learn from this experience and to be better people as a result."

The video was taken off-campus, spokesman Alan Wilbourn said.

"The Fayetteville Board of Education has a responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the district's students and employees," according to the release. "Students are responsible for their conduct that occurs: at any time on the school grounds; off school grounds at a school sponsored function, activity, or event; going to and from school or a school activity."

Rita Sklar, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said racism and bigotry must be confronted and condemned but questioned the school's handling of the incident based on the information available.

"The school can and should counsel these students, but the First Amendment protects students from being punished for off-campus speech that does not include a threat of violence -- even if that speech is offensive and abhorrent," Sklar said. "Some courts have recognized the right to punish students for off-campus speech if the speech contained a true threat of violence aimed at school students or officials, but the report does not indicate that any threats were involved."

The two students were punished under the district policy that states, "The district's administrators may also take disciplinary action against a student for off-campus conduct occurring at any time that would have a detrimental impact on school discipline, the educational environment, or the welfare of the students and/or staff."

When asked how the students actions violated the policy, Larry Ben, associate superintendent for administrative services, said "It's a principle or concept that is implied by the policy" and the video was disruptive.

"It was disruptive because of the reaction and students' attention was on this," Ben said. "We'd like their attention to be on geometry or science class."

Ben said safety also was a concern.

"It's reasonable that someone would want to retaliate," he said in reference to the language used in the video.

No details about the extent of the punishment were given. The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act doesn't allow the disclosure of a student's disciplinary record by a school district to anyone except parents or guardians or law enforcement, according to the release.

"The language used in the video has no place in and will not be tolerated by Fayetteville Public Schools," said Superintendent Matthew Wendt. "It is not Fayetteville High School. It is not the tradition of excellence, respect, and inclusion that are the hallmarks of Fayetteville High School."

The 2,568 Fayetteville High School students are about 69 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic, 9.6 percent black, 3.9 percent Asian and 0.5 percent native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander with the remainder in the category of two or more races, according to Arkansas Department of Education Data Center's 2017-2018 numbers.

Wilbourn said events are already scheduled across the school district this month that focus on diversity and inclusion as part of Black History Month.

"This is definitely a teachable moment," he said.

NW News on 02/02/2018