A Virginia school board announced it is canceling the remainder of a middle school's football season after a racially charged video of players simulating sex acts surfaced last week.
The video, originally posted on Snapchat, reportedly showed white players from the Short Pump Middle School football team straddling and humping black students. Profane racial remarks were also written in text over the video.
In a letter Friday, the Henrico County School Board said that the rest of the school's football season had been canceled, and that the whole team will have to undergo sensitivity training.
"As a consequence of the students’ actions that came to the school’s attention on Monday, the remaining football games for the SPMS football team will be forfeited," the letter said. "We acknowledge that all team members were not involved in the incident; however, we believe there are important lessons/reminders that should be reinforced with all team members."
Though the team will forfeit the three remaining games left in its season, it will continue to meet for practice, the school board said. Those practices will include mandatory discussions on ethics, sexual harassment, and racial tolerance, the board said in its letter.
It is not clear when the video was first posted on Snapchat, but it was brought to the attention of local police on Tuesday. The Henrico Police Department has opened an investigation into the matter, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, but no one has been charged at this time.
BuzzFeed News has not seen the video, but reached out to the police department for additional information. According to WWBT, the video begins with the text "Ever wonder what happens in the football locker room?" It then shows white students who appear to be pretending to rape black students while clothed, overlaid with the caption: "We gonna f— the black outta these African children from Uganda."
The video, a version of which was aired on a local TV news station Wednesday, caused an uproar in the suburban Richmond community. Some parents were reportedly upset that they had learned about the incident from news reports; others were upset that the whole team was being punished, although not all of the players were necessarily involved in the incident.
The school board did not elaborate on the content of the video in Friday's letter, saying that administrators "are prohibited from providing information pertaining to students." The letter added that the school plans to "develop action steps for preventing such incidents in our schools."
“Our hope is to use this very unfortunate event as a meaningful learning opportunity for students moving forward,” the letter said.
Frank J. Thornton, president of the Henrico County NAACP, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the board's statements were a step in the right direction, but that he wasn't sure if the school was adequately equipped to address the issue.
"You can’t just sugar-coat," Thornton said. "You need a group who really knows what they’re doing."
It was the latest in a series of recent racially charged school incidents in Virginia. On Oct. 9, officials in Chesterfield responded to a Cosby High School student carrying a Confederate flag, according to the Times-Dispatch. That same day, school officials at Midlothian High School began investigating reports that a student had used a racial slur in a group text message.
"It’s not the first time we’ve gone down this road," Henrico County supervisor Tyrone Nelson told the paper, adding that the responsibility to address racial insensitivity did not fall on schools alone. "It’s a greater cultural conversation."
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at email@example.com.
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