Police are investigating a video showing a group of Utah cheerleaders yelling a racial slur in an Instagram video, the Deseret News reports.
A video posted to Instagram earlier this month shows five Weber High School cheerleaders taking turns shouting “f*ck ni**ers.”
Weber School District spokesman Lane Findlay told Desert News that officials learned about the video Monday and are investigating whether the video was recorded on school property and how many students were involved.
“We’re still trying to figure out the origin of the video, what’s being said,” Findlay told the paper. “Obviously it’s circulating on social media and you have people that are contacting us with concerns about it, and rightfully so.”
“Behavior like this, whatever their intentions were, whether they were just goofing around or whatever, it’s unacceptable. It just can’t happen,” he said. “We just want people to know it will be taken very seriously, and appropriate action will be taken.”
Findlay says the district is both concerned about students who feel targeted by the video as well as for the girls’ safety.
“Hatred only breeds more hatred,” he said in a written statement. “These are teenagers who made a big mistake, and they w ill be held (accountable). Please be patient and reasonable as we deal with this situation.”
“Several commenters condemned the video, calling it racist, disgusting and embarrassing, and calling for the girls to be suspended,” the Deseret News reports. “Some defended them, saying they were young and were challenged to say gibberish that when played backward, resulted in the offensive video.”
“We are shocked by the conduct of these students and the contents of the video,” a statement from the school district said. “School officials have started an investigation and the matter is being taken very seriously. We are trying to determine when the video was made, where it was filmed, why the students would engage in such conduct, and how the clip ended up on social media.”
“Initial information suggests that the students may have actually been saying a different phrase, something similar to ‘surgeon cuff,’” the district said. “The video was then possibly uploaded into an app that plays it backwards, producing an entirely different sounding phrase. In this case, a very derogatory, offensive racial slur.”
Derek Olsen, an African-American local resident, said he received a message from his friend saying “you need to see this.”
Olsen said he was bothered deeply by the video but was also concerned about the backlash the girls were about to receive.
“I believe they didn’t mean any harm,” Olsen said. “I believe they’re good girls and they didn’t have any ill intentions, it was just a joke. But as far as people taking it and perceiving it that way, it really offended a lot of people.”
Olsen posted a video online with his own views, explaining how he grew up hearing similar slurs and how he feels now as the father of two daughters.
“I believe that if we can all understand and still spread awareness that racism does exist, then maybe we can go about it a certain way and change things,” Olsen said, adding, “we can all learn from this.”
Olsen told the Deseret News that the girls should be punished but they shouldn’t have their lives ruined over it.
“I don’t want these teenagers to have their lives ruined because of a mistake they made,” Olsen said. “They deserve to move on from this and they deserve to have a bright future.”