Video of Brighton HS student saying racial slur sparks outrage

MURRAY (News4Utah) - Community members are demanding accountability after a racially-charged video made the rounds on social media over the weekend.

Will Noah, a senior at Murray High School re-posted a video on Saturday to his Twitter page that was originally posted by a Brighton High School student. In the video, the female student is heard saying a racial slur. Noah said what the student said in the video is a phrase made popular on the social media platform Vine. Since then, the video has been retweeted more than 750 times and racked up more than 180,000 views on Twitter.

“As a person of color in the Utah education system, it is no surprise witnessing racist comments and actions made by students. The actions of these individuals are pushed aside as ‘jokes’ or ‘mistakes’ and disregarded. As a state, we must do more to make every student feel welcome in their schools no matter the race, religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic class,” said Saida Dahir with Black Lives Matter Utah.

Officials with Murray School District confirmed the student speaking in the video is a former student at Murray High School. Canyons School District confirms the student now goes to Brighton High School.

Noah calls the student in the video an acquaintance and said he’s had a couple classes with her before. He said the reason why he re-posted the video is because he wants her to understand the weight of her words.

"Words affect people. Words aren't just words,” said Noah. "The n-word has always had a negative affect on me and not a lot of people acknowledge that. It did put a burden on my school life and how I felt and how I walked around school and just how I thought about myself.”

Noah said he’s experienced discrimination and harassment before as a student of color and seeing this video “triggered” him.

“Immediately, I was disgusted with what I saw. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed,” said Noah. “It’s just sad, honestly. I feel like especially in today’s political climate, we need to be more aware about what we’re saying, how we’re saying it, and how we’re affecting people around us.”

News4Utah learned that the student was dismissed from her cheerleading team after they learned of the video. They posted this statement on their Facebook page:

"A.W.A.Y. Athletics firmly stands against the recent disrespectful and crude viral video involving two of our team members. The statements and views made in the video are in stark contrast the mission, vision, and values of A.W.A.Y Athletics. Effective immediately we have ended our partnership with both individuals and they no longer represent A.W.A.Y Athletics. Diversity and respect are etched into the foundation of our company. From our founding partners to our newest client, we value each individual experience, and believe everyone’s unique identity is an integral part of our community.”

News4Utah reached out to the student speaking in the video, who asked to have her identity hidden because she said her family has been receiving death threats. In a statement, she said:

“I am truly heartbroken for the people that I hurt by saying such a vulgar and hurtful word. It wasn’t my intention to hurt or upset anyone. I am so very far from racist and love everyone no matter the color of their skin. This isn’t the person I am nor ever wanted to be. I hope not only me but everyone in the world will learn and understand that that word is so offensive and such a hurtful and harmful word to use and to think before they do the things they do I just want to thank everyone who has made this a thing because it has taught me so much and this is something I can take and learn for the rest of my life. Again, I am sorry.”

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, said an apology is not enough and there’s never an excuse to use the n-word.


"Feeling sorry after you get caught is no excuse,” said Williams. "The reason why these students laughed about it and said it to begin with is because they thought it was funny and it was meant to be offensive. There are consequences when using words that are derogatory.”

Williams said the student needs to use this incident as an opportunity to educate herself on race relations. She believes the school district should take disciplinary action, such as suspension.

A spokesperson with Canyons School District said they will not open an investigation because the activity in the video did not take place during a school event or on school property. They released this statement to News4Utah:

“It is our highest priority to ensure an educational environment that is welcoming and safe for all students and employees. To that end, Canyons District conducted an internal investigation into the content of a video that circulated on social media last weekend. Preliminary results of our internal probe indicate that the footage for the cell-phone video was neither taken at a Canyons District school nor during a school-sponsored event or activity. The content of the posting on social media also did not target any CSD student, school or program. All this said, let us be clear: Acts of discrimination are not tolerated on any Canyons District campus. We will swiftly and firmly respond to any actions that violate our anti-discrimination policy, which states that Canyons District ‘is committed to providing a working and educational environment free from unlawful discrimination or harassment...on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.”

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