A viral video of Royal Oak Middle School students shouting "build the wall" during a lunch hour Monday has sparked outrage across social media, leading some to demand that district officials take action.
The video, which has more 650,000 views and more than 15,100 shares, shows a group of students leading the chant in the cafeteria. The woman who posted the short video on Facebook, Dee Perez-Scott, said in a brief caption that the incident happened Wednesday.
"The taunts, the 'Build that Wall' with such bullying power and hate from children to children," Perez-Scott said. "Just horrifying!"
The incident happened a day after Donald Trump was elected president.
The phrase "build the wall" became a signature chant at Trump's rallies across the nation during the campaign after he said he planned to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico.
The Free Press is not linking to the video, which is being widely shared on Facebook, because some of the children might be identified.
Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin released a statement Tuesday to parents and the community, confirming that the incident happened at the school during one of its scheduled lunch periods.
Lewis-Lakin said a "small group of students engaged in a brief" chant and school personnel in the cafeteria responded. Thousands of comments were posted on the video, some demanding action from the district.
It's not exactly clear how the staff responded. One adult can be seen briefly standing in the video while the children chanted. Lewis-Lakin could not be reached for comment.
"Because of the strong emotions and intensity of rhetoric that the posting of this incident to social media has elicited, we have had families express concern regarding student safety," Lewis-Lakin said. "Know that we work with our partners in law enforcement on responding to any and all threats that have been or will be made involving our students or schools."
Lewis-Lakin said the district is "committed to providing a safe, secure, and supportive learning environment for all students."
"We addressed this incident when it occurred," he said. "We are addressing it today. We are working with our students to help them understand the impact of their words and actions on others in their school community. Our school district and each building in it works every day to be a welcoming community for all, inclusive and caring, where all students know they are valued, safe and supported."
Facebook user Jenise Rodriguez said, "All those kids need to be disciplined. I would be so disappointed if I found out my daughter was part of that group."
Another user, Armida Marinov, said: "This is not the result of the election!!! Hate is not born with us, it is taught in our homes and communities!!! These kids didn't just learn to bully others and put them down in one day!!! They learned from their parents and their teachers."
Lewis-Lakin urged the district to come together after the incident.
"In responding to this incident – indeed in responding to this election – we need to hear each other’s stories, not slogans, we need to work towards understanding, not scoring points, and we need to find a way to move forward that respects and values each and every member of our community," he said. "We will be working on this in school today. Please work on this with us."
(2016 © Detroit Free Press)