A Pennsylvania school district found itself in the spotlight after video of a group of teens using the N-word during a game of hangman spread on social media last week.
In a short clip originally posted on Snapchat but later shared on Twitter, a student is seen writing in the answer to the Hangman game — complete with what appears to be a burning cross — on a dry erase board as other students laugh in the background. The answer was the N-word.
The video was first shared on May 29, prompting a response from the local school district and a police investigation, the Altoona Mirror reports.
The Hollidaysburg Area School District apologized in a Facebook statement on Tuesday and called the video an “embarrassment.”
“The Hollidaysburg Area School District community is deeply disturbed by the offensive actions and related social media posting, which appears to have originated from one of our students,” their statement reads. “We have been in contact with local law enforcement and swift and appropriate action will be imposed on those responsible.”
In addition to their efforts to investigate, the school district offered an apology.
“This behavior is an embarrassment to our students, staff and community, and we sincerely apologize for all who are offended by the abhorrent behavior of those involved.”
Hollidaysburg Superintendent Bob Gildea told WTAG that the four underclassmen in the video had asked a teacher if they could go into a classroom across the hall while the rest of the class watched a movie. While the teacher was monitoring the students from across the hall, she was not physically in the room with the students and did not see what they were drawing on the board.
The students involved are taking responsibility for their actions, Gildea said. Two of the students involved will be facing consequences; the other two students’ involvement is being investigated by the school district and the police, WTAG reports.
“I can’t get into details about the specific consequences or punishments that the students are receiving, but it absolutely it carries into the next school year,” Gildea said.
One student thought to be involved in the video posted and later deleted an apology via Facebook, according to the Altoona Mirror, which did not publish the student’s name.
“I am genuinely sorry for my actions at school today. I’m not a racist. I have many black friends and I shouldn’t have used that word. I’m a stupid kid and I was just trying to be funny. I know now that it is not funny and I’m very sorry to anyone offended by the post,” the student wrote, later adding that he and another student had begun receiving death threats because of the video.
“This has gotten out of hand and shouldn’t have happened at all,” the post reportedly continued. “There was no teacher in the room. I am very sorry to the ones that I offended and everyone that is involved in this.”
Blair County NAACP President Don Witherspoon issued a statement in response, the Altoona Mirror reports.
“The reason I became involved in the NAACP is because I have been discriminated against in the past, and it also happened to me in the Hollidaysburg area. That is the reason why I fight for equal justice for all people,” he wrote. “The NAACP will not tolerate this kind of behavior on any level, but death threats and violence are not the answer. Not only the young men involved, but the entire school district needs sensitivity training. I appreciate Superintendent Bob Gildea and School Board member Jim Gregory’s quick response to this unfortunate incident. I look forward to having some meaningful dialogue with the school.”
Oxygen.com has reached out to Pennsylvania State Police for an update on any investigation into the reported death threats.
Oxygen.com has also reached out to a student witness for comment.
[Photo: Stock photo of a hangman sketched on a blackboard. By aluxum, via Getty Images]