By Guest Blogger Sasha Jones
A viral video of Dover, N.H., high school students singing a song they wrote about the Ku Klux Klan is causing outrage online, leaving the district scrambling to respond.
The two students in the video, both 11th graders, performed the song in their U.S. history class. They were assigned to select an event from the Reconstruction era and write a jingle about it. The students chose to sing about the Ku Klux Klan, replacing the words to “Jingle Bells” with “Let’s kill all the blacks.”
Although students are laughing in the background of the video, the students singing did not know they were being recorded, Dover Superintendent William Harbron said in a statement.
Harbron called the event “an incident of extreme racial insensitivity. While the incident was part of a classroom assignment dealing with the Reconstruction period in American history, the impact was harmful.”
While the administration has not yet decided whether the students or teacher will be disciplined, Harbron said that the district will have conversations surrounding biases and discrimination, according to seacoastonline.com, which first reported the story.
The incident has led to the district to schedule New Hampshire Listens, a civic engagement initiative started by the University of New Hampshire, to meet with the class in which the song was performed, and other students and faculty at Dover High School. The district has previously been working with the group to train administrators, but the program’s expansion was originally only set to take place after all administrators were trained.
Since the song was a result of an assignment, school administrators, including Harbron and Principal Peter Driscoll, do not believe that the students had malicious intent, according to seacoastonline.com. But some online commenters noted that the incident raises some cautions for teachers:
This is why creative classroom assignments can be so problematic in History classrooms
-- Cantabridgian (@02138gal) December 3, 2018
The incident comes less than a month after a prom photo of students in an apparent Nazi salute went viral. The Baraboo, Wis., school district, however, announced that it would not punish the students, causing a debate on students’ First Amendment Rights, intentions, and the necessity to respond to such events.
In a review of 472 verified accounts of hate incidents in schools that took place between January 2015 and December 2017, a collaboration between Education Week and ProPublica found that most targeted black and Latino students.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.