Edina School District officials denounce racist social media video by high school students

A video posted on social media of Edina High School students mocking Asian accents and giving the Nazi salute has “disrupted our school environment,” district officials told students and school families this week.

In the video, which was deleted on its original platform but shared on other social media accounts, three boys who are white exchange incomprehensible remarks in what sounds like fake Asian accents while two white girls sit on a couch watching and laughing.

One boy raises his arm in a Nazi salute before the video cuts to another girl who says in a mock Asian accent, “Your boyfriend think you’re ugly.”

Principal Andrew Beaton sent a statement Monday to the school community, calling the post “culturally insensitive” and in violation of “our core values.” He said that district officials immediately “investigated and took appropriate action.”

“We understand that this has caused harm to members of our school community and [we] will create a space for students to speak about how this has impacted them,” Beaton’s statement continued. “Our mission is to create an equitable and inclusive school culture, and a positive learning environment for every student.”

District officials declined to say Thursday whether disciplinary action had been taken or provide any more information. “Data privacy concerns prevent further comment,” spokeswoman Mary Woitte said.

Edina is the latest metro-area school where racism has surfaced on social media or at sporting events. Officials are investigating and responding to recent incidents in New Prague, Minnetonka, Prior Lake and the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District.

Louisa Darr, 17, an Asian American senior at Edina High, said she was disappointed with the response from school and district officials.

“It was extremely hurtful for the rest of my peers and me to see,” she said of the video. “I’ve felt nothing but heartbreak and disappointment and fear these past couple of days.”

Darr saw the video at school on Monday, the day after closing out her first performance with Theater Mu in the production “Man of God,” a dark comedy on female empowerment that involves teenage girls being secretly recorded by their pastor.

In the play, they argue about the harm done by the camera, said Theater Mu’s artistic director Lily Tung Crystal. She said the social media post by the Edina High students amounts to life imitating art.

“Even though this video didn’t cause bodily injuries, it does cause emotional and mental injury that is racially motivated,” Crystal said. “The fact that they thought that it was OK, that it was acceptable and funny enough to post, is an additional insult to injury. Every time videos like this come to the surface, it feels traumatic.”

Crystal said she expressed her concerns to Beaton and asked him to hold the students in the video accountable. Beaton responded to her that “any circumstance that causes harm to our school community is taken seriously and addressed,” and added there had been a meeting with student leaders to decide how “to educate and repair the harm this post caused.”

Some of those steps may include staff conversations, a school-wide lesson and an examination of the student handbook.

Crystal said she is planning to connect with the St. Paul-based Coalition of Asian American Leaders to raise awareness of the situation. She said silence only perpetuates violence, given the recent rise in anti-Asian violence.

“We believe one reason for that rise is because our stories are simply not told enough on film, television and on stage,” she said. “When people do not hear our stories, it’s easy for them to see us as ‘other’ or even subhuman.”

Darr said seeing the video on the heels of a theater production about Asian American hate and violence against women was “an overwhelmingly painful experience. I knew I had to speak out about it, and I would encourage others to do the same.”