Students at the Cedarcrest High School in Duvall, Wash., staged a walk out Tuesday after photos came to light of two students dressed in a Halloween costume depicting George Floyd and Derek Chauvin.
The costume portrayed what was arguably the biggest and most impactful event in 2020 America: the death of George Floyd. In declining to punish the students, the Riverview School District noted that the costumes, and the photo, were neither on school grounds nor during school hours. The students were displeased with this response and walked out.
After the photo of the Halloween costume circulated, a petition was raised with almost 1,300 signatures from students and locals that demanded the school district hold the students accountable, according to King 5.
The photo shows the students, whose faces were not shown as they are minors, with one them dressed in a police officer's uniform kneeling on the neck of the other student, laying prone on the floor. More than 100 students walked out, saying that the school district needed to "take action." The photo was taken off of school grounds and outside of school hours and was shared on Instagram.
The petition to "Support Change and Minority Voices at Cedarcrest High School" was started by a student. It reads that the students "posted a very violent image to Instagram thinking they were creating a funny joke." That students named the students in the photo, along with the photographer, though the school district has declined to do so, as they are minors.
She wrote that she began the petition "after speaking with school officials," who informed her group that "they cannot do anything about this situation due to it not occurring on school grounds."
Her claim was that these students must be "held accountable" for their joke, because otherwise "it will in fact progress from here and teach other kids that this type of behavior and blatant ignorance is okay."
The photo, the angry student claimed in the petition, makes "Many minority groups feel unsafe having to attend school with such racist, uneducated people." She said that dozens of students agreed with her and wanted the school district to take action against the students in hopes "to make CHS a safe place again."
King 5 News spoke to alums of Cedarcrest High School about the incident. One of those was Alek Sanchez, whose brother is currently enrolled at the school. "As someone who went to the school," Sanchez said, "as someone who's lived here for a while, my heart just broke to see something so ugly."
"It's not enough for this to be a 'one off' or swept under the rug or dealt with. It needs to be a catalyst for a larger conversation and change," Sanchez said. Of the petition, Sanchez said that the signers are "still making it known that they're not going to let things like this stand and they're willing to fight for our community."
A resident of the area, Brianna Celaya, also wanted the school authorities to take action on the Halloween costume, saying "I think it's really just sent a huge rift in the community, and it’s really brought racism to light and what it looks like in the community. And it’s really up to the school to take some action."
She went on to say of the kids in the photo, who staged this costume, “I just don’t think they have the language or the cultural awareness to understand what these kinds of images can do to communities of color, to people of color."
The Riverview School District did issue a response to the photo of the Halloween costume, saying that it was "insensitive, extremely inappropriate, and disappointing."
The response from the school district read that the school and the district "have been made aware of a social media post, which involved students attending a private, non-school district event, and posting an image that is insensitive, extremely inappropriate, and disappointing. The social media post occurred off-campus and outside of school hours."
They said that they had "received numerous emails, phone calls, and notifications regarding this image" and had gone on to allow "students affected by this image the opportunity to speak to staff about the emotions and feelings that this image has caused."
"Cedarcrest High School and Riverview School District do not condone the messages shared by the post," they said, noting that the school and the district "hold shared values of honesty, inclusiveness, integrity and engagement." They stated their commitment "to ensuring that all students and staff are treated equally and feel safe and welcome when coming to school each day."
They did not state that action would be taken against the students, but said that they are "in contact with those involved and will continue to address concerns shared with us."
Additionally, reports King 5, the school district will use this as an opportunity, said District Superintendent Dr. Anthony Smith, to bring in diversity, equity and inclusion consultants so that the students at Cedarcrest High School can hear more about the jokes they're not allowed to make.
King 5 interviewed child and family therapist Toni Williams, and breaking down the racial make-up of the school district, which is 75 percent white.
"At the end of the day, you get high school students who are teenagers getting ready to be 18 and graduate and go out into society who still have these ideals that this kind of behavior is OK, when in all actuality you are contributing to the problem and the perpetuation of racism in that system," Williams said.
George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, became a catalyst for incredible social upheaval that reverberated in protests, riots, and civil unrest not only in the US but around the world.
A school in South Carolina suspended students for making a satirical video recreating Floyd's death. These students shared the video they made on TikTok, and when it caught the attention of locals, they started a petition also demanding that the school "take action."
In addition to the suspensions, the South Carolina school district promised that they would undertake more anti-racist education. That petition read "As many of you know three students posted a tiktok recreating and mocking the event of George Floyd’s death. No matter your opinion on George Floyd himself we can agree that mocking his death is immoral, racist, and wrong." The student who created the petition demanded that "principals and board members" must "address this racist event and the other many that happen on a daily basis."