A high school in Georgia says it is investigating a social media video showing cheerleaders laughing and blaming "niggers" for not giving them napkins at a McDonald's, but officials say they can't really punish the students since it is an "off-campus offense."
The short Instagram video swept across social media on Tuesday after some students at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, posted the clip to Twitter, which shows a group of teen girls sitting on the floor eating McDonald's with the caption "family dinner."
“They didn’t give us napkins,” one teen complains.
“Niggers these days,” another girl replies in a heavy Southern accent, prompting laughs from the group before the clip ends.
On Tuesday, the account, Everything Georgia, tweeted that a group of North Paulding High School cheerleaders "posted a racist video on their Instagram story" and asked the district, "what are you going to do about this?" The tweet has now amassed about 1,300 retweets.
After the video went viral, officials at Paulding County School District issued a statement saying they do "not condone any type of discrimination" and that they were investigating the issue, however, it seems they would not be disciplining the students because the racist remark was made off-campus.
"Our initial investigation indicates the video in question was not recorded on school property. We will continue our internal investigation, and will take appropriate action as warranted.”
Several students told BuzzFeed News that the girls in the video were still attending school, though Suzanne Wooley, a spokeswoman with the district, said she could not confirm if the students would still be allowed to participate in class and extracurricular activities "due to privacy laws."
When asked whether the district or leaders at the school planned to discuss the racist video with students and parents, Wooley replied that "it was not a school issue" because "the video was not made on school property."
"The students in the video are only identified as NPHS students by the caption on the video," Wooley explained. "I can send you the part of our Code of Conduct that addresses the criteria that must be met for a student to be punished at school for an off-campus offense. None of that criteria has been met in this situation."
The district's Code of Conduct addresses bullying, disrespectful conduct, racism, and student misbehavior only within the realm of school and school-sponsored activities. In its code, the district does state:
No student shall engage in harassment, intimidation, or abuse of or toward any other student(s) District employees or other adults for any reason. This prohibition includes but is not limited to, harassment, intimidation or abuse of students or others based on actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or a physical characteristic.
Also, students may be disciplined for conduct off campus which is felonious or which may pose a threat to the school's learning environment or the safety of students and employees.
The incident at North Paulding is the latest example of teens uttering racial, deragotory slurs on private social media accounts, which then go viral, forcing schools and districts across the country to grapple with how to discipline students when the remarks occur off school grounds. In October, a high school in Utah said it took "appropriate action" against five cheerleaders after an Instagram video taken over spring break was made public and created such "a substantial disruption" that officials were propelled to punish the students.
In that case, three of the five teens were also members of the Weber High School cheerleading team and were thus "held to a higher standard," as they signed a "constitution (code of conduct) that applies on and off campus," the district noted.
Several students told BuzzFeed News that leaders at the school have not mentioned the video and that racism is an ongoing issue at the school.
"The school hasn't said a single thing and all the county has said was that they don't promote racism and try to make Paulding a safe environment," said 18-year-old Kade Sebastian. "Our school wants to push it under the rug, so they haven't made any statements about what's going on."
Others echoed similar sentiments across social media, noting that they were not surprised and that racism has been a pervasive problem at the southern high school.