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Racist video, ‘vulgar’ graffiti at Rockledge High prompt letter to parents

‘Hate speech of any kind will not be tolerated,' Principal Burt Clark says in post

Vandalism at Rockledge High and nearby Taylor Park included "vulgar" and drug-related imagery and derogatory language toward school staff. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ROCKLEDGE POLICE DEPARTMENT)
Vandalism at Rockledge High and nearby Taylor Park included "vulgar" and drug-related imagery and derogatory language toward school staff. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ROCKLEDGE POLICE DEPARTMENT) (WKMG 2020)

ROCKLEDGE, Fla. – A pair of apparently unrelated incidents last week at Rockledge High School involving students using racist language and “vulgar” graffiti prompted the principal to reach out to parents, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.

In two emails later posted to the school's official Facebook account, Principal Burt Clark on Friday assured parents the school was working in both incidents to "identify the responsible parties, administer appropriate corrective actions and provide opportunities to continue productive conversations around social issues."

Reports of vandalism Thursday drew Rockledge police to the school and nearby Taylor Park after a city maintenance worker and the school resource officer discovered graffiti spray-painted in the park's bathroom and several sites around campus.

The graffiti included "vulgar" imagery and derogatory statements toward school staff, Clark said. A police incident report valued the damage at $2,500.

Deputy Chief of Police Donna Seyferth on Monday said officers were working on identifying a suspect.

Earlier video depicts students using racist language

The vandalism came three days after the school became aware of a video posted to social media depicting several students using racist language.

The video, which circulated on Facebook and Twitter, appears to show three white or Hispanic female students making obscene gestures at the camera and repeatedly using racial slurs.

The proximity of the incidents caused some to speculate the incidents were related, a claim Clark denied in his statements to parents.

The three students were identified and placed on what school officials called "admin," or absences approved through school administration, said School District spokeswoman Nicki Hensley.

The students were not suspended because the actions did not take place on school grounds, Hensley said.

Suspensions are allowed under School Board policy when a student's actions are illegal or violate board policy or school rules.

Racial slurs and other forms of hate speech are not illegal under Florida law and the school's code of student conduct only prohibits slurs on campus, at school activities and on school-sponsored transportation.

School Board policy itself is nebulous on the use of racist language that is not directed at a specific person or transmitted through the district’s communications network.

In his statement to parents, Clark condemned the language in the video.

“Hate speech of any kind will not be tolerated and will be addressed to the fullest extent possible, while utilizing every opportunity for authentic teachable moments,” he said.