An investigation requested by the Diocese of Covington in Kentucky found that the Covington Catholic High School students were not responsible for a contentious incident at the Lincoln Memorial last month.
The students and school were widely criticized after an online video appeared to show them mocking a Native American activist in Washington, D.C. on January 18. Subsequent videos showed a more complicated three-way confrontation involving a group of Black Hebrew Israelites.
“Our students did not instigate the incident that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial,” said Bishop Rev. Roger Foys in a statement on Wednesday.
The third-party investigation, led by four licensed investigators from Greater Cincinnati Investigation, found that the students didn't make any "offensive or racist statements."
The investigators said in their report that several Black Hebrew Israelites made “offensive statements to the students” and that there was “no evidence” that students responded with any racist statements.
The report also said that there was “no evidence of offensive or racist statements by students” made toward Native American activist Nathan Phillips. A video shared widely shortly after the incident showed Phillips beating a drum and chanting while one of the Covington Catholic students, Nick Sandmann, stood directly in front of Phillips and others circled around him.
After attempting to reach Phillips multiple times for comment, the investigators said he never responded. The report said they interviewed 43 students, nine faculty chaperones and four parent chaperones who were at the Lincoln Memorial on the day of the incident.
Investigators also reviewed social media posts and online videos.
The students were in D.C. to attend the annual March for Life, a rally opposing abortion.
In a statement, Bishop Rev. Foys applauded the students for their actions last month. “These young high school students could never have expected what they experienced on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial while waiting for the busses to take them home. Their stance there was surely a pro-life stance. I commend them,” he said.
Contributing: Associated Press