Racist slurs directed at new principal
chool officials say four anonymous persons interrupted an online video meeting being hosted by the new principal for Platte County High School and directed racist slurs and statements toward him.
Platte City Police Chief Joe Wellington told The Landmark that the incident falls “into the category as harassment and it is a hate crime.”
Wellington said his department and the FBI are conducting a joint investigation. “Hate crimes are federal offenses,” Wellington said of the FBI’s involvement into the probe.
The police chief added that the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force will also play a role in the investigation
The incident, known as Zoom bombing, took place Wednesday evening, May 13, while the new principal, Dr. Keith Jones, was hosting a video conference to introduce himself to current 8th-11th grade students.
Jones continued the meeting and then brought the incident to the attention of school district leaders, said Dr. Mike Reik, superintendent of Platte County R-3 School District.
Asked if the perpetrators hacked into the video call or were already participants in the conferencing, Wellington this week said: “We don’t know yet. That will be a part of the investigation. There’s not a lot of information we can put out there right now.”
Jones the day after the incident posted a YouTube video in which he thanked students and others for their support after the incident.
“I want to say thank you for the phone calls and emails. There has been an outcry of support and love. Thank you for supporting me through this kind of difficult time. I’ve had over 70 emails from students,” he said.
“I’m encouraged that I’m in the right spot at the right time,” Jones continued in his YouTube video.
“I want everyone to know that I’m ok and I’m still encouraged and I look forward to working with everybody,” he added.
“I am saddened by the hatred that was directed at Dr. Jones, and apologize to our students and families who witnessed this incident,”Reik said in an email to R-3 parents, students and staff sent the evening of May 13.
“I am sorry that this act will take away from what was otherwise a very positive introduction, yet I am confident that Dr. Jones can handle adversity and will use this to help grow and improve Platte County High School. I commend Dr. Jones’ professionalism in continuing his meeting with his new students, and bringing this incident to our attention,” Reik continued.
It is not the first racial incident to strike the high school. Alleged racist incidents over the past couple of school years at the school prompted the district to form a Diversity and Equity Committee.
“Let me be very clear: racism and hatred of any kind will not be tolerated in the Platte County School District. This incident underscores the necessary work that we are doing with our Diversity and Equity Committee,” Reik said in his email.
Reik said Jones hosted zoom meetings this week to introduce himself to PCHS parents and students, share his philosophy, and answer questions. School officials say Jones’s parent meeting on Monday, May 11 went very well, with about 60 parents joining in and providing feedback. But the May 13 Zoom call was interrupted by anonymous attendees making racist slurs and statements directed at Jones.
“Not only is this behavior in violation of our culture of inclusion and belonging, it is illegal,” Reik said.
Dr. Jones is quoted in the email that was distributed by Reik as saying that his overall experience meeting with staff, parents, and students has been positive.
“I will not let a few negative comments deter me from staying focused on what we will do at PCHS. I’m very excited to be a Pirate, and I can’t wait to meet our students in person. I promise to provide a safe and inclusive environment where we support all kids,” Jones says in the email.
Reik asks the public to contact the school district with any helpful information. He said the district “will investigate this fully.”
“We ask that our parents, staff, and students partner with us in denouncing this behavior as we create a more inclusive environment that is safe and caring for all learners,” Reik said.
The 2020-21 school year will be Jones’s first at Platte County High School after his hiring was announced recently. He has been serving as principal at Billy Mills Middle School in Lawrence, and previously served as an assistant principal at Free State High School in Lawrence.