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Teachable moment

10/27/2017, 6:45 a.m.

We have seen segments of the foul video posted to social media showing white football team members from Henrico County’s Short Pump Middle School in the locker room simulating sex acts on black members of the team while making racist comments.

As white players are on top, humping black players on the floor and over a bench, someone can be heard saying, “What’s going on?” The audible answer: “He’s (expletive) a black.” 

A caption typed on the video says, “We gonna (expletive) the black outta these African-American children from Uganda.”

 Our initial reaction of shock was followed by a barrage of questions: Who are these kids? Who does this? Why do they think it’s OK to sexually assault and racially taunt someone? Where is the coach? Where is the principal? Where are their parents? What about the boys who were victimized by their teammates? Are they OK? What are their parents saying and doing? Who is helping them?

At Free Press deadline on Wednesday, Henrico County Public Schools officials were holding a public meeting to address the questions, concerns and outrage of parents and community members who rightfully are demanding answers. 

Calls have come from parents and the community for the perpetrators to be suspended, expelled and/or arrested.

While Henrico County Police are investigating and the commonwealth’s attorney is now involved, the only punishment publicly announced at this point has been the team’s forfeiture of the remaining three games of the season. In a statement to parents on Oct. 20, the Henrico School Board said the school’s football practices will continue, with added discussions about ethics and sexual harassment.

In its statement, the board also said, “There is no place in HCPS for the kind of behavior portrayed in the video,” adding that students who fail to live up to the school system’s code of student conduct “will be addressed promptly and appropriately.”

Our question: When might that be?

We understand all the facts are not in, or have not been released to the public. We believe parents and the community have a right to more information in this distressing case that has made national headlines.

We also believe the perpetrators should face consequences so that they will learn sexually predatory and racist behavior will not be tolerated in Henrico schools or elsewhere. 

Based on Henrico County’s record of racially disparate treatment of students that is now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, we believe that had the situation been reversed, with the offenses committed by black team members upon white players, the black students would have been in juvenile detention before the sun went down on the Snapchat video.

We are not saying here that we want an eye for an eye. What we want is a genuine acknowledgment of the seriousness and possible criminality of the behavior displayed in the video. The perpetrators should not be treated as though their actions were mere “horseplay,” as one white parent described it. 

We want their parents involved. We want officials to get at the bottom of what caused this behavior and to bring a genuine sense of justice in dealing with it.