School officials in Watertown are investigating after video with racist comments surfaced on social media and said they plan to discipline anyone who was involved.
Superintendent Rydell Harrison posted on Twitter Monday that he learned that a high school student made a racist comment on social media and he said hate speech will not be tolerated.
"This was done outside of school hours, but obviously it has had a significant impact on the learning environment of our students," Harrison said.
A parent of a high school student was the one who reached out to Watertown High School Principal Daniel Carroll, who saw the video and started investigating.
Harrison shared a letter from Carroll that informed parents about a “video containing racially insensitive language” that went viral on social media Monday afternoon.
Carroll’s letter says the video was brought to the attention of school administrators at the end of the school day Monday and there were concerns that the comment came from and was filmed by Watertown High School students.
Carroll said that the school administration “will apply all appropriate disciplinary policies for those individuals who are responsible” and that counselors and school psychologists will be available for students affected by the comments.
“Moving forward, Watertown High School will use this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to reinforce our position regarding equity, respect, and acceptance of all individuals in our school and community,” Carroll wrote.
He went on to say that school officials have spoken with the Capitol Region Education Council and will contact the Anti-Defamation League to help the high school implement educational programs “regarding respect, appreciation and acceptance of differences.”
“We will be discussing immediate steps and long-term planning with CREC and the ADL in order to provide educational and restorative support for our school community,” Carroll wrote.
The school is also planning on how to move forward to address the dangers of social media and the impact “hasty posts can have on an individual, a school and a community,” according to Carroll’s letter.
He is encouraging parents to speak with their children about respect and appreciation of others.
"It's important for us not to just target one student and say we fixed it there, but really to open a conversation up with all of our students," Harrison said.
Andy Friedland, associate director of the Connecticut Anti-Defamation League, said it's important to have conversations after these kinds of things happen, especially with the way children are exposed to social media today.
"It's important they know what they're seeing and are able to put it into context and not treat things that are hateful and dangerous like they're funny jokes or something like that," Friedland said.
The ADL said they are working with Google, Facebook and other companies to make sure these platforms can be productive and positive online communities.