Administrators, coaches and parents at Gordon Lee and Ringgold high schools have reacted with surprise and condemnation after a short video posted on social media this weekend showed several students using a racial slur after a group chat that turned ugly.
The students, who are athletes at the respective schools, took turns saying the one-word slur as the camera turned to them. The students were not taking part in any type of school-related function. The video was quickly deleted from the personal accounts, but it was copied and posted on Instagram by a concerned student, who commented, "That people would have the audacity to ask me why I don't like going to school in north Georgia, that's a pretty good example if you ask me."
The Times Free Press has decided not to include a link to the video at this time.
Chickamauga City Schools Superintendent Melody Day released a statement Sunday reading:
"In response to the many comments we are currently receiving, I want to express our disappointment concerning the shocking video chat that was recently released online. We had no knowledge of the video until it was sent to school administrators by a concerned person, just a short while ago. At this time we are trying to gather information and determine all the participants — some of whom are our students — concerning this unfortunate incident. I will state that the subject matter is highly inappropriate and definitely is not representative of the district, the students, families, nor the Chickamauga community!"
The mother of one of the athletes posted on her personal Facebook page: "Hard life lessons at (our) house this morning. As many 15-year-olds have been known to do, (my son) made a very poor choice. A choice that does not reflect his upbringing or his true character. There is a video of him and his friends saying the 'N' word that is making its rounds on social media. He is beyond devastated and too late realizes how wrong he was. Why this video was made is beyond explanation or rationalization. As a family we have discussed punishment, but we have also made the decision to have the hard conversations. We want (our son) to realize that although it is a word, it is much more than that. It has the power to ignite hate; it is entrenched in the tearing down of a culture and people. He needs to own what he has done by understanding and growing as a person. He has apologized online, but we know apologies mean nothing without change. We are reaching out to those he has hurt (teammates, opposing players) to try and sit down, to talk, to try and heal. There are always two choices when you fall: be bitter and hate or grow as a person and learn. I hope that experience helps him grow. There are no words. We are hurting and devastated and hopefully growing from this experience."
Ringgold football coach Robert Akins confirmed two of his players were involved. The veteran coach said the school will not tolerate such behavior.
"Obviously, that doesn't epitomize our team or our school," Akins said. "This is a situation where we have kids, and I don't know what they were thinking, but I know it's not acceptable under any circumstances. You can't take it back, and there are consequences to that.
"With everything happening in the world today — something like this shouldn't happen anytime, but especially now that there is more awareness on the subject of equality. I can promise you, there will be severe consequences. We talk to our kids constantly about staying away from those things, but sometimes they are full of themselves. I don't think it epitomizes any of those kids, even though I don't know the Gordon Lee kids. We are going to take it head on and we are going to protect our team."