A spokesperson for the Gilbert school district said a thorough investigation began “immediately” after Highland High School administration received a report of the incident on Wednesday.
An email from the school’s principal, Melinda Murphy, sent to students and families on Friday, said the event was investigated and that the “parties involved were disciplined according to Gilbert Schools policy.”
“All breaches of Gilbert Public Schools student code of conduct are investigated to their full extent and district policies and procedures are followed to deliver consequences,” a statement from the district said. “Gilbert Public Schools strives to create communities of inclusion and any act of racism is in direct opposition to the values that we hold as a school district.”
President of Black Student Union at school says incident isn’t isolated
Hanaan Abdulle, 18, is a senior at Highland High School and president of the school’s Black Student Union. Abdulle said incidents like these “remind us where we are in our struggle” to make the high school an equitable place in addition to the community as a whole.
“I don’t want to make it seem that the student recreating the murder of George Floyd is just a silly act of racism,” she told The Arizona Republic. “These aren’t mistakes, these are premeditated. This is a hate crime. This is a textbook hate crime.”
Abdulle is Muslim and wears a hijab. She said she has experienced racism in addition to her older sister, who graduated in 2018.
“She’s had instances where students would make fun of her,” Abdulle said. “I’ve had students ask me if I were a terrorist. … I had a student tell me, ‘I don’t like Black people, but you’re OK.'”
Abdulle said Black students make up less than 100 of about 3,000 students at the high school. “We’re a super minority,” she said. “I have experienced being the only Black girl in class. Every member of the BSU has experienced being the only Black student in class.”
Abdulle said the Black Student Union has made some strides at the school such as celebrating Black History Month and holding events, but the burden to address racism can’t be on Black students, she said.
The school could use assemblies to bring in Black speakers to educate students on race or provide workshops about implicit bias and discrimination, Abdulle said. But one of the first steps, according to Abdulle, is to acknowledge and see that there is a problem
Black leaders, organizations say those involved should be disciplined
Carlian Dawson, a retired principal and director of education for the Arizona Center for African American Children in Phoenix, said she wanted to know who encouraged these students to do this reenactment and why.
“Who was there to help those children process this?” she said, wondering if there was a counselor in the room or if it was prepared. “I don’t know what what person’s intent was, but people have to be careful.”
What should be a calm environment turned into a hostile one for the one Black girl in the class, Dawson said. “African American kids get so traumatized daily; it’s important for teachers to look and see what they are doing,” she said.
Though it’s unclear why or how the reenactment occurred, Dawson said there should be consequences for those involved, and the district should consider training and understanding in trauma, biases and implicit biases.
“This racist behavior happens over and over again. People need to know that this is just as harmful to an individual as if someone was in a serious car accident or as if you watch someone physically die,” she said.