(SALT LAKE CITY) — A video that appears to show five teenagers shouting a racial slur and expletive while laughing is under investigation by Utah school officials, a school district said Tuesday, and the NAACP has called for harsh punishment.
The 10-second cellphone video was made by Weber High School students as they sat in a car, said Lane Findlay, a spokesman for the school district. He said three of them are cheerleaders. They all appear to be white.
The video shows the teens repeatedly yelling an expletive and slur as they laugh.
They initially recorded themselves shouting a different, nonsensical phrase and uploaded it to an app that played it backward to produce the offensive words, Findlay said.
The video was made a year ago, and one of the girls recently shared it on social media as a private post, he said. It was seen by other students who reposted to other online platforms.
School officials are shocked and taking the matter seriously, Findlay said. School officials have talked with three of the five the girls, and they are “extremely apologetic” for what happened, he said.
The video wasn’t made during the school day or on school grounds, but violations of the school’s code of conduct could bring discipline, possibly related to involvement in extracurricular activities, he said. The students are juniors and seniors.
“Racism, whether intentional or not, has no place in our schools or society,” Findlay said in a statement.
He added: “Certainly, there are no excuses for this type of behavior, but they are still children in a sense and hopefully this will be a learning experience for them and others.”
Jeanetta Williams, president of NAACP’s tri-state conference area of Idaho-Utah-Nevada, called the video appalling. The fact that they were laughing made it sting even more, Williams said.
“They knew what they were doing it. They did it, and they posted it,” she said. “If they had any type of concerns about other people’s feelings or about what other people would think they wouldn’t have been laughing.”
She wants the cheerleaders suspended from the squad and the other students given discipline involving one of their activities.
“A strong lesson needs to be sent to them,” Williams said. “It seems like our work is never done.”