Last week, a racially insulting Snapchat video began circulating in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County school district. The video showed a young, white male wearing a noose, feigning an attempt to hang himself. The caption read: “In Honor of Black History Month.”

The video received a stern rebuke from Superintendent Beverly Emory, who described it as highly offensive, and leaving students feeling disrespected.

Spokesman Brent Campbell says this is just the latest example of a growing trend in troubling social media behavior.

He spoke with WFDD's David Ford about its impact on students, staff and the broader community.

Interview Highlights

How does a video like this affect WSFC Schools staff?

Well, this one in particular didn't happen at a school. It didn't target a school. It didn't target an individual student. Just the fact that it was a student within our district, it was offensive, says that it's not acceptable to us. Many of our staff members want to make sure that their students can maintain focus during the day — our number one priority is to educate children. But when their focus is taken off of what they're doing in the classroom and is turned into some type of societal or emotional impact, the staff have to work to regain that focus. And these types of negative behaviors really have an impact on everyone around them.

How widespread of a problem is this abuse of social media in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School district?

Just in my past year and a few months that I've been in this position, we probably see some type of media post or concern multiple times a week, and across all ages. This isn't just tailored to high school. There's things that happen in elementary schools that students have availability to social media and can post things. There's things that happen in middle schools, high schools, and it's all across the board, from comments that just might make you uneasy to pictures that may make you uneasy. There's all kinds of things that our folks are investigating and this really takes up a lot of time on a daily basis for them to take a look into these posts and try to find out if they're credible, what was behind them, what was the purpose, who did it, why they did it, if someone was targeted... It's something we see quite frequently.

What do students need to know about poor social media behavior and its implications for them?

I think the bottom line is, don't ruin your school experience. Don't negatively impact your future by using social media in a degrading or a destructive way. So often, I don't think students—adults too, for that matter—think before they post. So, they don't ask themselves, ‘Does this post represent who I really am, or what I really believe? Is this something I would want my friends, or my church leaders, or my community friends, or my community members, or my teachers to see?' I would encourage folks to think about that kindness really does count and what you're saying on your post, would you say that to a person's face, or would you show them that in person? Also, I think the thing that people forget most often is that if you post it—even if it's supposed to be a private message—it can be captured and shared. Once it's out there, it's out there for anyone anywhere, and it can't be taken back. So many times, students and adults, too, for that matter, post something that comes back to haunt them for years to come.  

Ed. Note: This story has been updated from an earlier version to include interview highlights. 







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