Racist video brings calls for action at Prior Lake High School

A crowd stands in support for a student outside a school building.
Nya Sigin, right, listens to her cousin Acha Deng speak in support of her during a rally at Prior Lake High School in Savage, Minn., on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated 5:23 p.m.

Students at Prior Lake High School were sent home early Thursday as outrage grew over a student video posted online that targeted a 14-year-old Black classmate with racist invective and anger and urged her to kill herself.

One girl is seen in the video. Another is off camera. Both use racial slurs.

An investigation is underway and police are working with the school district and the Scott County Attorney’s Office, Rodney Seurer, the police chief in Savage, told reporters Thursday afternoon. The school is in Savage.

In Minnesota, it is against the law to encourage someone to take their own life or encourage someone to attempt to take their own life.

Officials said they were limited in what they could disclose about the girls in the video. Seurer described the video as “horrific, hateful, racist” and said authorities were getting the word out that “there's consequences for making bad choices.”

The girl targeted by the video, Nya Sigin, spoke outside the high school Thursday afternoon. "It’s disgusting. It needs to stop. Now,” she said, adding she was grateful for the support she’s received since the video surfaced on social media. Other students who’d gathered to support Nya said they’ve had to deal with racist slurs and insults.

Bullying has been a problem at school, said Suzy Benjamin, Nya’s mother. “We don’t want this to happen to anybody,” she said. “We want our kids to go to school and be safe.”

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community said one of the girls using racial slurs in the video was a member of their community.

The band condemned the slurs and said the video has also brought threats to their community. Leaders later added they’ve canceled a previously planned community event set for Saturday.

Seurer said their investigation also includes threats made against the people suspected of creating the video.

Prior Lake-Savage school officials said they were taking what they called proactive steps to keep the school safe, including bringing in extra police.

The video “continues to cause hurt and pain,” said Teri Staloch, superintendent of the district in the southwest Twin Cities suburbs. She said school officials took immediate action and contacted police when they heard about the video.

The focus now, Staloch said, is on the school’s student body and especially making sure the school’s students of color feel safe.

She declined to say whether the students in the video have been disciplined by the school or district.

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