A superintendent in Wisconsin is investigating what he calls a "reprehensible" video showing two students appearing to mock the death of George Floyd.
The video has sparked demands for action, and criticism that the Mequon-Thiensville School District needs to do more racism prevention and education. The district is about 30 minutes north of Milwaukee.
The video in question shows a high school junior giving two thumbs up, while kneeling on another young man’s neck, who says “I can’t breathe,” while laughing. A third student recorded the video.
“It’s sad because I was so disappointed about it, but I wasn’t shocked because we’ve had a problem with racism at Homestead (high school) for awhile now,” said Morgan Limbach, a senior at Homestead. “It’s time we stand up to it. Everyone was re-posting the video on Snapchat and I was horrified.”
Limbach created a petition calling for the Homestead High School student in the video to be expelled. It already has more than one thousand signatures.
“I felt compelled to do something after I saw a lot of black students who go to my school on Snapchat saying we do not feel comfortable with this person going to our school,” Limbach said. “If our black peers are saying ‘this is making us uncomfortable,’ and ‘enough is enough,’ then we really need to be listening to them. I think now more than ever we really need to demand action.”
Limbach emailed the principal of Homestead High School, who replied that he saw the video, was appalled and is investigating.
“Our school has a zero-tolerance policy for racism, or bullying, or any sort of targeting of minorities, and to sit back and allow this kid to continue attending our school shows that they're not enforcing their own rules,” Limbach said.
A family member of the student in the video did respond to TMJ4 News over email, saying they are consulting with a lawyer and will follow up with the media.
“It will affect the student in the video, but imagine how this affects every student of color who goes to Homestead,” said Reem Salah, who graduated from Homestead High School in 2019.
Salah created a separate petition last week, that calls for improvements to social justice issues at Homestead High School.
“Asking Homestead to change their curriculum to include black voices, more accurate black history, more accurate indigenous history, and more voices of people of color,” Salah said. “The racism I experienced in high school wasn’t necessarily extreme like in the case of this video, but there were micro-aggressions, and people not being aware of what they’re saying. It’s something students of color in a predominantly white school, face all the time.”
Salah emailed the school district, asking leaders to collaborate with students and alumni of color to create a social justice curriculum. She says she’s waiting for a response.
“Addressing things like systemic racism, micro-aggressions, and how to a good ally, then the whole community would benefit more,” she said.
Matthew Joynt, Superintendent of the Mequon-Thiensville School District, released this statement:
“The Mequon-Thiensville School District is aware of an offensive video posted on social media featuring two students and recorded by a third student who attend schools in this district. We will not dignify the video by describing it, but the behavior exhibited in the video is reprehensible and not representative of our diverse and inclusive student bodies. Nor is it representative of this district’s efforts to be inclusive and show respect to all individuals. Without condition, the Mequon-Thiensville School District asserts that Black Lives Matter. And we look forward to continuing to educate and work with our students, families, faculty and staff, and other community stakeholders to implement systemic change that rejects racism and other forms of bigotry. We are investigating this matter and are unable to comment further at this time on potential responses to the video, which we unequivocally denounce.”
This story was originally reported by Katie Crowther on TMJ4.com.