A racist video involving five boys from San Tan Junior High has prompted some soul searching among Chandler Unified School District administrators, but the boys in the video will not be disciplined.
While district officials are conducting an ongoing dialogue with African-American parents enraged by the video, Superintendent Camille Casteel said she also wants to address several broader issues involving the district.
Those issues include the lack of racial diversity among the faculty and administrative staff districtwide as well as apparent unevenness in disciplinary action against students, Casteel said at a news conference last month.
Data indicated that African-American students may be disproportionately suspended and more severely disciplined than students of other racial backgrounds.
The video, made Jan. 12 in a private residence, involved five boys singing along to a racially offensive song. Unknown to those boys, a sixth had recorded it, then posted it on social media.
Parents had demanded that the district take action against the boys, but Casteel said the district was powerless to do that.
While a district investigation “included lengthy discussions as to whether the district could discipline the students,” she said, “we could find any evidence they participated in the posting or dissemination of the video.”
“The boys were unaware they were being recorded,” she said. “None of the five posted it to social media and none participated in the dissemination of the video to social media.”
Hence, she added, “there is no evidence they intended to bully or intimidate,” and while the video “was hurtful and offensive, it is not within our authority to discipline these students.”
Casteel said the boys’ parents and school officials are meeting with the boys “to teach them why the lyrics are so offensive and destructive, the ramifications of their actions and the dangers of social media.”
But Casteel said, “While we may be limited, we’re not powerless.”
She noted that the governing board recently adopted a resolution reiterating that Chandler Unified’s commitment to diversity and fairness.
In part, that resolution stresses that 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.”
“We express deep support for those hurt and make it clear that such behavior is unacceptable,” said the resolution, which is posted on the district’s website. “All of our students and staff, and each of our school community members, deserve to feel safe and valued at all times.”
Casteel said that out of the district’s 46,000 students, 5.3 percent are African-American but only 2.2 percent of teachers and 4.4 percent of administrators are black.
Part of the problem with increasing the number of black faculty members is the statewide teacher shortage, and that shortage is even more acute when it comes to minority teachers.
“We have some work to do and we are committed to doing everything we can to increase the number,” Casteel said.
She also said disciplinary action is “out of balance” as well, and that black students are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended.
Casteel said one of the steps the district will be taking is hiring a “director of equality and inclusion” and forming a committee of parents and community members and educators to review programs for minorities.
(Tribune file photo)