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School district 'condemns' students' social media video with racist lyrics

Chandler Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Camille Casteel said she's "sorry" that parents are upset about a...

Posted: Feb 22, 2018 2:36 PM
Updated: Feb 22, 2018 2:37 PM

Chandler Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Camille Casteel said she's "sorry" that parents are upset about a video posted of five Santan Junior High students singing along to a song that features racist lyrics.

The video was taken Friday, Jan. 12 at a private home.

Casteel on Wednesday announced the school's investigation into the incident to determine if the district could discipline under the cyberbullying or other policies, but has concluded and that the district doesn't have the authority to do that since the incident happened off school property.

"With one possible exception, the boys were unaware that they were being recorded, "Casteel said. "None of the five boys posted the video to social media and none of them participated in the video's dissemination on social media following the posting."

"Additionally, we could not find any evidence that these young men had intended their speech to reach the campus to antagonize, bully or intimidate students at Santan Jr High," she continued. "Nor was there evidence that they intended their hate speech to be directed toward any specific Chandler Unified Student. Therefore, the conclusion was that this incident, while hurtful and offensive, is not within the District's authority to discipline."

The district's governing board and administration does, however, "condemn the acts of intolerance that recently surfaced on social media and denounce them as contradictory to our core values."

Casteel said this will be a teaching moment for the students involved.

"I can assure you their parents are remorseful," Casteel added. "I am pleased to say that each parent has addressed this issue proactively with their child, as you would expect any parent to do."

She added the district needs a more diverse staff.

"The teacher shortage is well publicized and the shortage among minority candidates is even greater," she said. "We are committed to do everything we can to increase the number of qualified minority employees.

There are 46,000 children enrolled. Of those, 5.3 percent are African American students.

An estimated 2.2 percent of the district's teaching staff and 4.4 percent administrative staff are African American.

"The District's long-standing mission, vision and core values are based upon the unwavering belief that diversity, equity and collaboration on our school campuses and in all District operations are essential," Casteel said.

She also pointed out that not only is there much work to be done, but there also will be inevitable stumbling blocks along the way.

"It is going to take time and we will need the help of many. ... Our progress and success will no doubt be slowed down by the inappropriate use of social media," she warned. "[W]e are reminded that our District is a microcosm of our society and, as a result, we are experiencing the same issues that are challenging our nation.

"Our ultimate goal," Casteel said, "is to develop a student body that is kind, respectful and responsible."

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