Facebook video ignites racial tensions at North Stanly High School

By Charles Curcio and Chris Miller

A video of two North Stanly High students using racially-charged language that has since gone viral has caused concern among parents and students.

The three-second video, which was first posted on Snapchat and has since been shared to Facebook, shows two white females singing the lyrics to “Alabama (expletive),” a song by Clifford Trahan, also known as Johnny Rebel, a singer cited by NPR as having been a “white supremacist musician.”

Posted online by the parent of a North Stanly student, that post’s video has been viewed more than 5,500 times as of Wednesday.

As a way of making their voices heard, about 30 students took part in a brief walkout before lunch Tuesday morning in the North Stanly parking lot.

The students first informed school staff, who “assisted them to make sure that they were safe out there in the parking lot and then they all came back in for lunch,” said Hope Miller-Drye, administrative and school board assistant for Stanly County Schools.

A meeting occurred Tuesday morning between some‌ students affected by the video, administrative staff and community leaders, Miller-Drye said. SCS would not reveal who the community members were.

“They gave students a chance to come and have some conversations and have those feelings expressed in a positive manner to try to help release some of the anxiety that surrounds the issues that are happening,” Miller-Drye said.

North Stanly parent Vonisha Gramling was at a 90-minute meeting she said featured about 40 individuals, both white and black students. She noted one white student organized the walkout and spoke at the meeting about how upset he was for his black classmates.

“I literally had to put my head down to catch my own tears,” Gramling said. “To see these kids literally broken and crying, it just pulls at your heart.”

She believes the black students at the school “are being treated unfairly.”

In a statement released Wednesday from Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis, he said the district was “made aware of an inappropriate social media post that began circulating last week which did not occur while on school grounds.”

“The school and district administration are working together to support all students to provide resources to any student,” Dennis said. “Additional support such as community leaders along with our Student Services Team has been on campus to assist students with navigating conversations, feelings and emotions.”

Dennis noted the safety of students and staff remains the school system’s top priority, adding the district “will not tolerate any speech or actions that demean students or staff and remain committed to creating an environment that is safe and inclusive for all students.”

When asked if the two students in the video would face disciplinary action, Miller-Drye said the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, “prevents disclosure of information that is non-directory data which includes discipline.”

This is not the first time North students have been at the center of controversy surrounding a social media post.

In August 2019, North cheerleaders were photographed at a football game holding a sign supporting then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. The photo made its way onto Facebook, where it caused a backlash.

The school did not formally discipline the cheerleaders, though the North Carolina High School Athletic Association put the squad on probation for violating the principles laid out in the “Philosophy of Cheerleading” section of the association’s handbook.

The NCHSAA described the probation as a warning because the school system did not punish the squad and they were allowed to still perform during football games.

The incident received national and international attention, with many people angry that the girls were punished for expressing their political beliefs.