UPDATE: Corrective action taken after Kearney school leaders respond to racial harassment

On shirts that have been promoted throughout the school district that use the school district’s bulldog mascot, Kearney schools illustrate their anti-bullying stance with a message that says, “Don’t be a bully, be a Bulldog.”

KEARNEY — In a letter sent to district families last week, Kearney School District Superintendent Bill Nicely said the district and high school are responding to an incident involving racial harassment.

Over the course of last weekend and outside of school, a Kearney High School student made a social media video and posted it to the creator’s personal page that contained “racially explicit content” directed at a fellow student. Administrators were alerted to the content when school resumed last Monday, Sept. 9.

According to the letter sent to district families, the district categorized the post’s content as “racial harassment.”

“Even though the incident occurred outside of the normal school day, it quickly created a disruption at the high school,” Nicely wrote in the letter. “In our school district, we have addressed other incidents of students experiencing racial bullying, but nothing to this extent.”

Nicely said the district works hard to provide the best learning environment possible for all students, which includes making sure no student feels marginalized by an adult or peer.

“I am saddened by this recent incident because although we have taken steps in the right direction, we still have work to do in our school and community,” he wrote in the letter.

In the letter to parents and guardians in the district, the superintendent said the district’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee provided learning opportunities for staff and students to help people recognize biases. The district, he said, is developing plans for students, staff and the community to have a dialogue around these concerns.

Nicely said he wants families to assist by having added conversations at home about topics of bullying and how to create a more inclusive environment for all.

“This is an opportunity to take this ugly thing and use it as a teaching tool to communicate that this is not OK,” he told the Courier-Tribune Monday, Sept. 16.

In addition to sending a letter to district families, Nicely said High School Principal Andy Gustafson sent an email to students, reiterating that the matter is not indicative of “who we are as a school or who we are as a community,” Nicely said.

In the communication, Gustafson referenced a desire for students to not be part of a “silent majority,” where students may see, hear or know of something wrong that has taken place but have not come forward.

“We don’t want kids to be silent anymore. We want them to say, ‘No. This isn’t OK. You can’t talk like this,’” said Nicely.

While specifics of the action taken cannot be released as it involves a student, Nicely said corrective action has taken place to make sure the school is a safe place for all.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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