School officials condemned a video posted on social media that shows students from Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston appearing to reenact the killing of George Floyd while laughing and shouting, “I can’t breathe.”
The brief video clip was reported to the school administration by several students and community members, according to a statement from the school district Tuesday.
The district said the incident involved three minors who are students at the school.
The video shows one student kneeling on another on the floor while pointing what appears to be a rifle at him. The student on the floor gasps as he shouts, “I can’t breathe.”
Both students are seen laughing in the video clip, which surfaced a week after Floyd, a black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis.
The death has touched off protests across the country and led to charges against all four officers involved.
“What we know so far is that this video was recorded and disseminated off school grounds, and we do not believe that it was directed at any specific individuals or students,” the district said.
The school administration immediately turned the matter over to the Kingston Police Department.
“The Sanborn (Regional) High School and School District condemn this insensitive and offensive conduct. Conduct of this nature is unacceptable and has no place in our schools, in our community, or in our country.
“Although this event did not occur during school, we are committed to taking an active role in combatting racism and social injustice in our schools and school community, and ensuring that the Sanborn Regional School District continues to be a safe place where every student is welcome, regardless of their age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, familial status, disability, religion, or national origin,” the district said.
Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. said it’s an ongoing investigation involving juveniles. “At the conclusion of the investigation we will send the case to County Attorney Patricia Conway for her review,” he said.
The video spread quickly through the Sanborn community and angered many, prompting a former student to start an online petition at Change.org that seeks to have the students expelled.
More than 1,000 people had signed the petition by Wednesday morning.
The petition described the video as “racist, violent, and hateful.”
“This is completely insensitive and hurtful to their fellow black students/peers,” said the petition, which was started by a former student.
Sanborn Regional High School Principal Brian Stack said the school has been in touch with a number of community members to answer questions and help them process the incident, which may prove to be a teachable moment for students.
“As the statement said, we are committed to seeing this through for our kids’ sakes,” he said.
Stack said, “The educator in me will always look to capitalize on those opportunities.”
Students disturbed by the video are being encouraged to reach out to the high school for support by contacting administrators or a school counselor directly. Contact information for counselors can be found on the district’s website, www.sau17.org.
The district said it’s also working to identify both internal and external professionals and organizations who can assist in responding to the incident “in the most supportive and effective way possible.”