‘Disturbing’ racist video by Pittsford student sparks investigation, discipline

Local News

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC) — Officials from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday that a student-made video containing images of a weapon and racist messages circulated Pittsford Sutherland High School.

The video — which authorities say is believed to had been filmed months ago — was investigated for a potential threat. According to officials, the “disturbing” video involves a weapon that was determined to be an air-soft gun.

MCSO officials have interviewed the student’s family and plan on screening additional students who may be involved. Police believe there is no credible threat to the community’s safety at this time.

Deputies will be stationed at the school’s premise for a duration of time with the goal of providing a sense of security for staff and students at Sutherland High School.

“The video is unacceptable in our community,” officials from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in a Sunday statement.

In an email titled “Recent Racist Incidents,” Superintendent Michael Pero outlined the video and asked PCSD parents to hold their children accountable, emphasizing there is no room for racism at the school:

“Dear Families and Colleagues,

It saddens me to share that this week there were multiple racist incidents, mostly occurring outside of school, and most involving social media of some type. Among these incidents, was the posting of racist video by a PCSD student that was reported to me Friday evening. We investigated this and the other situations, took swift and serious disciplinary actions, worked directly with the families involved and in some of the incidents, involved the Monroe County Sheriffs Office. In more than one of these incidents, students in our schools were made to feel unsafe and that is unacceptable.

Parents, I am asking for your help. Please have a developmentally appropriate conversation with your child about the importance of speaking up as a bystander if racist, discriminatory, and/or biased words or actions are observed. Emphasize to your child that if they have been on the receiving end of any kind of hate-filled, racist, or derogatory speech, that they should report that to an adult at school as soon as possible. Please also talk to your child about the importance of valuing their peers and being a positive citizen. Last, I ask that you join me and our school community in condemning hate filled, derogatory, racist speech and racist actions in any and all forms. There is no room in our school community for racism.

My expectation is that our school environment is one filled with care, compassion, respect and empathy by and for every single student, without exception. Thank you for your assistance in helping to make this a reality.

Pero is currently working on taking corrective action against the student and anyone else involved.

In the meantime parents have expressed concern for damage incidents like this have on students.

“My oldest was having severe anxiety when we were talking about it,” said parent Tharaha Thavakumar. “I had that racial trauma happen to me as a student, so I made sure I talk to my kids about it.”

One parent saying the district should take more action instead of words.

“They have said some very good words but there needs to be ongoing action to back that up we really need to step it up because right now a lot of people have been harmed,” said Analise Johnson Smith.

An additional statement from Pero provided more information Monday afternoon:

“As a follow up to yesterday’s message, I wanted to share with our community thatPCSD is dealing with students who made racist remarks on social media, video and in text messages, most of which occurred off campus. These very serious incidents include a hateful text exchange, with racial content, among secondary students and a disturbing video created months ago that has now come to light. In particular, the video includes a student who displays a weapon that was determined to be an air-soft gun and deemed not a threat by Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).

We continue to work closely with the MCSO who stationed deputies at Sutherland High School today out of an abundance of caution. Counselors in our schools are available and trained to support students impacted by these incidents. We also encourage families to reach out to their school principal if your child(ren) are in need of additional support.  

These incidents and any form of racism or discrimination are intolerable and PCSD will pursue student discipline with the heaviest of consequences at our disposal. In the face of this the District is determining how best to bring these examples to our student body with the message that this behavior is unacceptable, is completely void of humanity and wholly in violation of our code of conduct, core values, and everything PCSD stands for.

Let me be clear that we recognize the significance of these and previous events and the impact it has on our students and families. Our work in eradicating racism must be stronger than ever. This will include completing the process of hiring an equity and inclusivity coordinator and continuing our work to ensure an inclusive environment.

It should not be overlooked that these situations came to our attention through honorable students who followed our ‘See Something, Say Something’ protocol. I am proud of these students for doing the right thing for their school and our entire community. Their leadership exemplifies our mission as a school district to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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