A group representing the parents of black students in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School district has decried racist social media posts by a High School North student.
The WW-P African American Parent Support Group reacted to a series of posts on TikTok by the student, a Plainsboro resident, in late April.
In the posts, the teen talked about auctioning off black women as slaves and compared black people to chimpanzees. The account has since been deleted.
The student’s name is not being released, because he is a minor. Plainsboro Police have said they are investigating the incident, but no charges have been filed to date.
“On behalf of the officers of AAPSG, we want to make a statement regarding the Tik Tok video content that was recently posted on social media by a West Windsor-Plainsboro High School student, which contained racist and derogatory references and innuendos towards African Americans. AAPSG was outraged and disgusted by its content and the insensitive nature of the video.”
The statement, which was signed by Joy Horton, Latoya Edwards, Gregg White, Grace Odediran and Sanrose Russell, states that the AAPSG reached out to the superintendent David Aderhold and requested a meeting, which was granted.
“It is important to all that a thorough investigation occurs, and if warranted serious consequences and disciplinary measures be pursued by the district that will truly demonstrate that there is zero tolerance for these behaviors,” said the AAPSG. “If the district does not adequately address and handle this and other occurrences of racism appropriately, it will continue to foster a culture in which racism is tolerated and normalized.”
Aderhold, in a series of statements to the community, said that the issue is being addressed and that action has been taken against the student.
He said that federal and state laws prohibit the district from divulging the specific discipline that was imposed on the student. “However, appropriate discipline was imposed in accordance with our District Code of Conduct.”
“The district condemns all acts of bigotry, racism and hate,” Aderhold said. “Instead, we continue to be committed to valuing our long-standing racial, religious and cultural diversity. We believe it is our responsibility to provide our students and staff with a safe environment, free from hate and bigotry. Whether we are in our brick and mortar buildings, or in our current virtual remote learning program, we will continue to do everything in our power to reinforce our district and community values and protect our students and staff.”
The district also received some backlash from community members who complained that Aderhold’s initial statement seemed to lessen the severity of the student’s posts.
In that statement, he said, “We also have a responsibility to one another to forgive wrongdoing and allow individuals the opportunity to grow from mistakes. Honoring the social emotional learning and growth of individuals, which is a hallmark of our district, also means recognizing that errors in judgment will be made. While we do not condone the posting or the message, we will never condemn the growth potential inside each of our students. Let this misguided incident be one that unites us as a school community.”
In a follow-up, Aderhold addressed the concerns. “Unfortunately, it appears that there are some misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions being made as to the District’s position, actions taken, and tolerance for any acts of hatred, racism or bigotry.”
“The statement at the end of our earlier message has been taken out of context and is being construed as some kind of excuse for this abhorrent conduct.” he said. “It most certainly was not. It would be easy to write off those that engage in conduct that is the antithesis of what we stand for and believe. But that is not our job as educators. Our job is to try to work with those that make terrible decisions, and educate them about the error of their ways so they can ultimately better themselves and be productive members of society.”
According to a report by NJ Advance Media, the student posted an apology on his Instagram account.
“The videos were a stupid and hurtful attempt at humor. I have made the biggest mistake of my life,” the student was reported as saying. “I am committed through my actions to repairing relationships and the damage I’ve caused our community for as long as it will take.”
Reaction from residents in the community has been strong. Some started a petition calling for the student to be rejected by two colleges he had applied to. Both colleges told NJ Advance Media that he has not been admitted, and will not be attending their schools.
Meanwhile, more than 100 WW-P residents posted comments regarding the incident on Facebook. Below is an example of their comments.
“I’m a student at North in the racist Tik Tok kid’s grade, and while I can’t speak for any other complexities in his life, I do know that he and a lot of other students he’s friends with are not bullied, but in fact in a social position where they’re constantly degrading others, especially regarding race,” Ameya Natarajan said. “If some of these kids could be held responsible for half of the things they do and say on a daily basis (remember, comments like the ones made in the video are a daily occurrence), colleges rescinding their admissions would be the last of their worries.”
“I’m sorry that it happened, but I don’t feel sorry for the one who did it,” said Tomas Lord. “Those were decisions made and executed for an audience. If that’s what was being said on the internet imagine what was said and done behind closed doors. Best to nip that in the bud now, that may have averted another bigger disaster down the road.”
Vee Meryam said, “I think introducing mandatory community service would be a great start. And not just community service, but understanding the lives and stories of the people we have the honor to serve.”
Hadeeth Zaidi said, “If he has so little care to be making multiple racist videos, then I don’t see why I should care about his future or if he can go to college or not. There are so many people his age who don’t get the opportunities he’s had so far in life, plenty of people his age who aren’t even able to go to college, or didn’t receive the kind of education he has… WW-P has always made it clear how little they actually care about racism towards black people. Kids were blatantly racist when I went to South, and barely got a slap on the wrist. That was 2010, a decade ago. Nothing has changed.”
“The election of Donald Trump emboldened the racists to come out because they think it’s not wrong to make derogatory statements against minorities when the president does it too,” Henggao Cai said.
Eileen Fisenne said, “While I agree with you that social media platforms like Tik Tok help easily spread abhorrent viewpoints, they don’t cause it. For me, a video like this makes me stop and look at my own behaviors to make sure I’m not modeling or condoning racist statements or jokes. I know I can’t fully control my child’s actions but I can do my best to raise them in a household where disrespect toward anyone is unacceptable.”