There was an abundance of hate speech on Twitter after Obama's reelection, with people hurling violent and racial epithets. Many of those tweeters were teenagers whose public Twitter accounts feature their real names and advertise their participation in the sports programs at their respective high schools. Calls were placed to the principals and superintendents of those schools to find out how calling the president—or any person of color, for that matter—a "nigger" and a "monkey" jibes with their student conduct code of ethics.
We contacted their school's administrators with the hope that, if their educators were made aware of their students' ignorance, perhaps they could teach them about racial sensitivity. Or they could let them know that while the First Amendment protects their freedom of speech, it doesn't protect them from the consequences that might result from expressing their opinions. (For example, an adult woman is currently being investigated by the Secret Service for calling President Obama a "nigger" and suggesting he be assassinated on her Facebook page.)
Additionally, several of the teens use imagery of their high schools' sports teams on their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. If nothing else, it's reasonable to alert administrators to the behavior of the students who are publicly representing their schools.
Ricky Catanzaro plays football for Xaverian High School, a private Catholic prep school in Brooklyn, NY. Students who play sports there must sign an athlete's contract that stipulates a promise "to be a worthy representative of my teammates and coaches, abiding by school and community expectations."
The day after the election he tweeted, "No nigger should lead this country!!! #Romney" His Twitter timeline (since removed) revealed that "nigger" is a word he regularly uses in his day-to-day vocabulary. After other people tweeted their disgust at his comment about the president, Catanzaro responded to his black critics by referring to them as "slaves" and "cotton-pickers," and noting:
While a call to the principal was not returned, an administrative assistant at the school said, "They are aware of [the tweets] and they are dealing with it."
He must've been reprimanded, though, because later in the day Catanzaro tweeted that he was "in trouble" and claimed that his Twitter had been hacked.
Who ever is on my twitter stop making tweets I'm getting in trouble for it !!! #why!— madhouse12345 (@ricky_catanzaro) November 8, 2012
His Twitter account has since been deleted.
Stehl Taylor plays hockey at Central York High School in York, PA. The school has a very detailed code of conduct that are outlined in its student handbook which students are required "to keep with them throughout the entire school day." According to the handbook students are subject to suspension for "name-calling" or "making fun of personal characteristics such as race [or] ethnicity."
On election day Taylor tweeted, "About time we get this monkey out of office #GoBackToTheZoo" and "Hope Obama dies."
Julie Romig, the Director of Communications of the school district said, "We are aware of it. We are addressing it but we do not comment on individual students." When pressed about whether comments like the ones Taylor made clash with the school's code of conduct, Romig reiterated that she couldn't comment. Taylor's Twitter account has since been deleted.
Addison Sykes, a football player at Jackson Christian School in Jackson, TN tweeted, "Lol Obama may be the president but even he still needs welfare. #nigger"
The school's president, Dr. Rick Brooks was the most forthcoming of all the administrators on how the situation was handled by releasing the following statement:
Addison's words clearly do not reflect the values that we espouse and teach at Jackson Christian School, and are not representative of our broader school community. As such, we have visited with him about his actions and his attitude, and have disciplined him accordingly. As is our school policy, we will not share information about specific discipline cases.
Though we find Addison's action and words deplorable, we hope that our continued encouragement and teaching will help him further avoid the mistakes of youth, and will help him to mature as a young man. I hope that you will be able to look beyond what he has done, and toward the man that he can and will become from this unfortunate learning experience.
After the election, Kodie Girton tweeted, "The movie 2012 first New York floods and there is a nigger in office also. See a coinensadince." A quick Google search brought up a local newspaper article reporting that in May 2012 Girton had signed a letter of intent to play baseball for Indiana State University on an athletic scholarship. A call placed to the college revealed that was not the case.
Joel McMullen, the Assistant Athletic Director for NCAA Compliance, said that Girton was never offered an athletic scholarship. Instead, he was a "recruited walk-on" which essentially refers to any player on a team who did not receive a scholarship. He was recruited to play baseball, but there was no binding agreement between him and the school. But the difference doesn't matter anyway, because according to McMullen, Girton didn't meet the NCAA academic requirements to attend the university, adding, "He has never been a member of our team or student body."
Girton has since deleted his Twitter account.
Gabe Dutch tweeted, "I hope the world does end in December so we won't have to suffer another four years with that monkey in office #Fuck Obama"
Alexa Barba-Tepper, assistant principal at Redwood High School in Visalia, CA where Dutch plays baseball would not confirm whether or not the school would address Dutch's Twitter remarks, saying only that she cannot comment about minors and cannot comment to the media. A message was left the with school's principal that was not returned.
Someone identifying herself as Dutch's sister Amelia Dutch, left a comment on the original post on Jezebel, imploring people to not make assumptions about her brother, and suggested that perhaps he made his comments on Twitter due to "social pressures" in his small town, which, however, do not keep him from "dating an African."
As a sister to Gabe, who is dating an African I know that he is not racist. We must look at the environment that these people grew up in, and the views that are imposed on them by their parents and peers. There are social pressures, especially in small towns to be conservative. We must understand that an individuals brain is not done developing till well into their twenties, hence irrational decisions are made. These are not excuses, yet allows us to have see reasons for naivety. I am not here to try to make up for what my brother said, he must learn like we all have. But its a tough world out there, and you don't know these individuals backgrounds. So please, don't make assumptions. Remember it makes an ass out of you, and me. God bless.
Dutch has since deleted his Twitter account.
Cole Krut, who attends Beaver Falls High School in Beaver Falls PA tweeted, "Lets face is… Romney aint the best choice..But hes a hell of alot better than that sand monkey we call a president. #MITT" followed by, "Like 90 percent of latinos and blacks voted for obama.. But were the racist ones.."
A secretary at the school said that Principal Mary Beth Leeman "does know about [the tweets]." A message left for Mrs. Leeman was not returned.
That day Krut tweeted about the incident, "it was a joke.. Theres alot worse tweets out there..im not even 18," before deleting his Twitter account.
Davis Moody's numerous tweets regarding the election were particularly offensive. He called the president a "monkey," made several violent threats about the south "rising again" and said he was "willing to spill blood" among other aggressive remarks.
The mission statement of Mill Creek High School in Hoschton, GA, where Moody is a student, states:
We view learning as a partnership shared equally among students, parents and faculty. Working together we believe that every student regardlesss of innate ability, race, creed, ethnicity or national origin is capable of making measurable improvement each school year.
The school was contacted to see if Moody's abusive language was representative with the kind of education it provides. Messages were left, and calls were not returned. Moody has since deleted his Twitter account.
Demi Keely, who has been competing in pageants since she was little girl and most recently competed in Miss Louisiana Prom Girl, displayed her inner-beauty when she tweeted "If you going for the monkey, shoot yourself, seriously."
Keely attends Carencro High School in Carencro, LA. Calls placed to the principal's office were not returned. Her Twitter account is still up and running, and she's made no mention of any resulting disciplinary action. When she was confronted by others on Twitter for her language, she responded:
KEEP YOUR FUCKING TWEETS TO YOURSELF! I can voice my opinion if I want to!— Demi Keely (@demikeely) November 9, 2012
Brandon Norrie, a baseball player at Sickles High School in Tampa, FL said, "If your voting for Obama just because hes black and you are too, thats some nigger shit."
He has since insisted he was hacked.
Stop critisizing me for something i didntsay. I was hacked Obviously.— Brandon Norrie (@bnorrieWC) November 8, 2012
Michelle Brosam, a soccer player at Rider High School in Wichita Falls, TX who has a recruiting page for colleges, tweeted: "Unfollow me if you hate the fact that America voted the nigger into office again and were all fucked. #sorrynotsorry #hateobama" and "Yay for the money I'm gonna lose that I already don't have because of the nigger in office." The mission statement and "core beliefs" of her school stress the importance of equality, a "safe and secure" environment for students and staff, and the "profound impact" that a school can have on a child's life. One of the assistant principals is black. Calls to the office were not returned.
Brosam has since deleted her Twitter account.
Lou LaDonna, a football player at West Islip High School in West Islip, NY, whose header image on his Twitter account is picture of Lions football players in their team uniforms, tweeted, "When in doubt kick the nigger out #Romney!!"
The principal of West Islip High School is Dr. Anthony Bridgeman, an African-American. In an email he said:
As a school, we are very offended by these remarks and are taking the necessary steps to address it.
On a personal note, as a black male principal of this great school, I take umbrage to those remarks; however, I know this student very well and that is not who he is. He made a terrible mistake.
It appears that LaDonna has since stopped using that Twitter account.
Zack Miller, a baseball player at University Christian School Jacksonville, FL tweeted, "First thing my mom says this morning: did you hear the bad news? The monkey is staying for another 4 years… #WeHateYouObama" And this:
All you people who voted for Obama most likely have no clue why you voted for him. Besides that he is black— Zack Miller✌ (@_zackkmillerr) November 7, 2012
The student handbook at University Christian is very specific about its students' conduct on social media:
[S]tudents using social media websites and other blogs that post material contrary to University Christian School's philosophy will be subject to disciplinary action. Content deemed inappropriate to the purpose and mission of UCS will be in direct violation of the school's code of conduct. Students will be disciplined for inappropriate posts made on or off campus, during or after school hours and with any electronic device (personal or school owned).
A call placed to the assistant's principal's office, asking if the content of Miller's tweets were contrary to the school's philosophy was not returned. Miller's Twitter account is still operational.
While it is encouraging to think that some of these schools took this issue very seriously, it leads one to wonder whether their interventions in the matter will help these teenagers to be more understanding of racial sensitivities — or if they will just become angry, and if that anger will become displaced and only serve to intensify their hate. Whatever the case, they surely will have learned the lesson about how their conversations on social media are not private and that their words do, indeed, have an impact.