By SHERIDAN ROY
The collaborated investigation continues as Southington police and Southington Public Schools administration look into a racist video recorded by a Southington teen that was sent to a group chat on Snapchat, then shared on Twitter by one of the group members.
“A recent event in our community garnered much media attention, and has brought a level of sadness, embarrassment, and hurt to our high school family, our community, and to me personally,” Southington superintendent of schools Tim Connellan said at the BOE meeting on Thursday, Dec. 13. “I am especially concerned for our children and families of color who were targets of hate in this incident. I truly believe that the diversity that exists within our community is one of the things that makes Southington a wonderful place.”
On the same day, police opened an investigation into the incident to determine “if there is a criminal aspect to this message.” When this story went to press on Tuesday, no charges had been filed. Lt. Steve Elliot stated police are still conducting interviews and the incident is still under investigation.
In the video, the teen is seen walking around a room during a heated rant. He repeatedly uses a derogatory word aimed at black people and threatens to lynch them. He also threatened to put a burning cross in the yards of black people.
While the video was recorded outside of school grounds, school policy states that conduct off school grounds that is “threatening in any manner, including orally, in writing, or via electronic communication against a member of the school community, including any teacher, member of the school administration, any other employee or a fellow student” is subject to disciplinary action including suspension, expulsion and removal from class.
Bullying is defined in the policy handbook as causing physical or emotional harm to a student, placing a student in reasonable fear or harm to him or herself, and creating a hostile environment at school.
The policy handbook states that bullying may include any “written, verbal or electronic communication or physical act or gesture based on any actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability”
Cyberbullying is further defined as any act of bullying through the use of the internet, interactive and digital technologies, cellular mobile telephone or other mobile electronic communications.
Connellan said administration will never be able to control the words, beliefs or actions of one person, “but we can applaud the reactions of others during times of divide.”
The superintendent commended the response of the student body, and the volume of students and families who brought the event to the attention of administration. Their actions, he said, should be applauded as the real representation of the school community.
“Southington Public Schools will not condone, support or tolerate such behaviors such as that demonstrated in the video that we’ve all seen,” he said. “We will continue to do our upmost to protect our students physically and emotionally, and to teach a message of kindness, care and acceptance.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.