Video sparks death threats

Racially insensitive post by Hollidaysburg students spurs anger

Police are looking into a racially insensitive video posted online Tuesday and the death threats that two Hollidays­burg Area School District students say they are receiving because of it.

The video shows a portion of a hangman game and shows one student filling in the puzzle as others call out letters and are heard laughing. The answer was the n-word.

Hollidaysburg Superintendent Bob Gildea called the act “abhorrent” and apologized on behalf of the district.

“The Hollidays­burg Area School District community is deeply disturbed by the offensive actions and related so­cial media posting, which ap­pears to have originated from one of our students,” he said. “We have been in contact with local law enforcement and swift and appropriate action will be im­posed on those re­spon­sible. This behavior is an embarrassment to our students, staff and community, and we sincerely apologize for all who are offended by the abhorrent behavior of those involved,” Gildea said in a statement.

On a Facebook account, one student posted an apology, which has since been removed. The Mirror is not naming the students on whose accounts the postings were made because it was not able to independently confirm Tuesday night that the people making the postings are actually the names of the accounts.

One posting said, “I am genuinely sorry for my actions at school today. I’m not a racist.”

The posting continued, “I have many black friends and I shouldn’t have used that word. I’m a stupid kid and I was just trying to be funny. I know now that it is not funny and I’m very sorry to anyone offended by the post. It was a dumb mistake and was only to be pointed at one person. Which he is a very good friend of mine. I have no problem with any races. I am a lover of all people. (Name removed) was the one that recorded it which I had no idea he recorded it. I’m very sorry. It was never meant to get out to the public. This isn’t right that (Name removed) and I are getting death threats. I have realized how big I messed up. I am friends with tons of black people and I work with a bunch. This has gotten out of hand and shouldn’t have happened at all. There was no teacher in the room. I am very sorry to the ones that I offended and everyone that is involved in this.”

In response to comments questioning whether the apology was sincere, the person later posted: “It is a genuine apology. I’m sorry you think that way. The police are involved. I’m getting what was coming my way. Can’t take all these death threats.”

The person named in the post as the person who recorded the video posted on a Facebook page: “I know there’s a bunch of b(—) going on with the snapchat and I took care of it. I’m not even the one who recorded it or posted it. Someone had my phone (not saying who) and took the video of the kid (not saying who) I sincerely apologize that this happened. People thought it’d be funny to take my phone and record stuff and try to start drama. If there’s anything I can do to make it up to the people, please message me and we can get it fixed. Once again, I’m sincerely sorry and I hope this can all get fixed and cleared up.”

The (not saying who) is how the post was published. The Mirror edited the expletive.

In subsequent posts, the person says: “I’m really sorry about all of this. I cleared it up with the kid and I fixed it. I know people are still upset about it and they have every right to be.”

In a later posting, the writer says: “I have black friends and half family that’s black. Still, snitching someone out so he can get his ass beat isn’t gonna fix anything. It’s shared everywhere and a ton of people know. I still have a bad name for myself and there’s nothing that’s gonna fix that.”

Gildea said he and high school Principal Maureen Letcher are working to determine whether a teacher was in the room, saying Tuesday night there “likely was not” but added that was “unclear.”

Gildea also raised the possibility that students may have been “in an unassigned area.”

He said most of the seniors were out of school Tuesday attending graduation rehearsal, and attendance was sparse due to graduation preparation and an “outside activity” involving underclassmen.

Gildea said the investigation will resume this morning, when he said he expects to be able to provide more information.

School board member Jim Gregory alerted district officials about the posting. He said: “This is truly appalling. It has been passed to administration as they were not yet aware and is being investigated. There is no place for this in our society. I apologize personally as a representative of this district to all who are rightfully offended.”

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