‘How is this funny?’: Middle school students mock George Floyd’s death

SALISBURY, N.C. — A parent said she is upset about how a video that showed two students at Charles C. Erwin Middle School reenacting George Floyd’s death was handled by officials.

“People are angry, but it’s like, what do you do?” parent Breanna Cherry said.

Cherry’s daughter attends Charles C. Erwin Middle School in Rowan County.

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“They think it’s funny that a man got his neck kneeled on until he died,” Cherry said. “How is that funny?”

In the video, one of the students said, “I can’t breathe.”

“When I told the principal, I’m just, like, ‘How haven’t you seen this’ when people are tagging them? Tagging the school. People are mentioning the school in the video, saying, ‘This is Erwin Middle School,’” she said.

Cherry watched the video that quickly circulated on social media on Saturday. She said she immediately contacted the principal, school board chair and superintendent.

“It was more than those two children in that video,” she said. “It sounds like a classroom full of people, at least a couple others. It’s too much. It’s too much because we’re in 2021. We’re not in the 1950s.”

Cherry said the video sparked an emotional conversation with her teenage daughter.

“She said that she was scared to say anything, and I let her know, ‘You have Black male cousins. It could’ve been your granddaddy. It could’ve been your daddy. It could’ve been anybody. George Floyd could’ve been any Black man.’”

The Rowan-Salisbury Schools system is investigating the incident.

“I know this behavior does not represent the RSS community or Charles C. Erwin Middle School,” Superintendent Dr. Tony B. Watlington Sr. said in a statement. “We are currently investigating this matter and I want to reinforce my commitment to ensure we maintain educational learning environments where each and every student is safe, respected and valued. Our diversity is what makes us stronger and more resilient. While we are extremely disappointed this incident has occurred, we are using this incident as a teachable moment, and encourage all of our parents and members of our school community to discuss how we treat each other as a measure of our shared values, respect for one another and our commitment to human dignity and worth of all students and staff.”

Statement from Rowan-Salisbury Schools:

“Rowan-Salisbury School System (RSS) is conducting an investigation into a highly offensive image that was shared on a personal social media account involving students at Charles C. Erwin Middle School.

This matter was brought to school administrators’ attention on May 31, 2021. RSS acknowledges how hurtful and destructive this social media post is within our school community, and we strongly condemn and have no tolerance for highly inappropriate, racially-charged, and offensive acts.”

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