December 09, 2016
A Pennsylvania district attorney is defending his office's decision to investigate a high school student who allegedly posted a racist video on social media.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced this week that he was looking into possibly charging a 14-year-old white student at Saucon Valley High School in connection with a recording of a 16-year-old black classmate.
According to The Morning Call, the video was posted to Snapchat. The black student has been charged in juvenile court with simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct following an Oct. 14 confrontation at the school.
But Morganelli said the confrontation occurred because the video provoked the black teenager, which is why he's investigating the white student as well.
Morganelli described the racial slurs and insults used in the narration of the video. Per The Morning Call:
Shared on social media, the recording showed a 16-year-old black high school classmate eating chicken. The narration contained the N-word and references to welfare and other racist stereotypes, Morganelli said.
"'Look at that N-word eating chicken,'" Morganelli, who viewed the video Wednesday, recalled in describing it. "I was outraged by it. It was repulsive. It was very insulting."
On Thursday, Morganelli took to his Facebook page to explain his decision to investigate the white student after some people had contacted him and told him racism wasn't a crime:
A handful of people have called my office to proclaim that being a racist is not a crime and that, therefore, no further investigation is needed in the matter involving the recording and distribution of a racist video aimed directly at one, particular black high school student who was minding his own business.
It is true that being a racist is not a crime. But Harassment IS a crime and when one engages in the harassment of another individual with malicious intention toward the race, color, religion or national origin of that person, -- that is yet another crime- called Ethnic Intimidation.
Every person has a right to the peaceful enjoyment of their lives. No one should be subjected to seriously disparaging statements about their physical characteristics including but not limited to their race.
Under Pennsylvania law, harassment includes someone communicating "to or about such other person any lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures." That can be defined as ethnic intimidation if committed with "malicious intention toward the race, color, religion or national origin of another individual."
Saucon Valley School District has faced other complaints of racism in school this year. In November, several black parents attended a school board meeting and told stories of their children being regularly called the N-word.
The problem has been so pervasive across the state in recent months that Gov. Tom Wolf announced last month his administration had developed a response plan for handling racist incidents at schools.