Santa Clarita school district officials vowed to take action after a video posted to social media shows students driving through a school parking lot and singing a song that includes a racist slur.
Three Valencia High School students filmed themselves laughing and repeatedly singing the N-word into a microphone. The song’s lyrics included: “I don’t like N—”.
Representatives of the Santa Clarita chapter of the NAACP and the William S. Hart Union High School District addressed the video at a news conference Tuesday with other community leaders. District officials did not disclose what type of discipline the students will face for being minors.
The video was recorded by a student who was being driven across a parking lot in a car with two other students. She laughed and held a microphone up to the driver as they sang the lyrics to the song.
“Then they chose to share that hate speech by posting it on social media for thousands to see,” said Valerie Bradford, president of the NAACP’s Santa Clarita chapter. “Of course, their actions spread like wildfire, and African-American students on campus once again felt fearful, alone, and singled out.”
Antonia Esi, president of the Black Student Union at Valencia High School, quoted civil rights activist Angela Davis as saying, “I no longer accept the things I can’t change. I’m changing the things I can’t accept.”
Esi added: “The act of violence against black people inflicted by these girls in these videos is one of the things I cannot accept. Walking through the corridors of Colegio Valencia and hearing the voices of this video echoing from telephones to mouths is an act of violence that we cannot accept either”.
Superintendent Mike Kuhlman condemned the casual manner in which the lyrics were repeated in the video.
“The Hart District will not condone this type of hate speech, and we have taken proactive steps to ensure that our intent is to promote an equitable, safe, and inclusive environment for all of our students,” Kuhlman said in a written statement.
Kuhlman promised that the district has taken “strong and proactive steps to send the message that this type of flagrant racism” will not be tolerated.
The video is not the first instance in which Valencia High School has had to deal with racism. In 2008, the school district agreed to pay $300,000 to four students to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit. according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
The students in the 2008 settlement claimed that the district allowed hate and bias to persist at their school and that district officials ignored parental comments. While attending Valencia High School, the students said they heard chants of “white power” and “go back to Africa” during their lunch hour and saw swastikas, iron crosses and other racist symbols tagged on school property.
In the current case, district officials conducted interviews with students, parents and staff members, according to Kuhlman, and also contacted law enforcement officials regarding the video posted on social media.
While the blatant racism displayed in the video was shocking, it did not surprise many in the community, said Cherise Moore, a board member for the school district.
“For so many others to reach out to say that their child wasn’t surprised by this video or that it’s not uncommon for the word to be used in school, well, it’s eye-opening in so many ways,” Moore said. “It helps me recognize that we have a lot of work to do as a board.”
Moore said he will present a list of recommendations to the district’s governing board to address racism and bias within the school district.
“We need to have ongoing training that allows us to take a deep dive into some of the issues around racism that sometimes people are too uncomfortable to have,” Moore said. “I also want students to understand the impacts of certain behaviors on groups of students.”