November 28, 2022

River Valley High students apologize for participating in mock slave auction video


River Valley High students apologize for participating in mock slave-auction video

03:23

Yuba City, Calif. — A prank video showing students putting on a mock slave auction at a high school here has had real-life consequences for students who participated, CBS Sacramento’s Ashley Sharp reports.

The school’s varsity football season was forfeited because too many players were suspended for the team to continue its season.

In addition, students and school leaders have been facing firsthand the hurt that the video has caused the community.

The video depicts white students at River Valley High School “auctioning” off black students as slaves in a football locker room. 

On Monday night, the Greater Sacramento NAACP chapter hosted a meeting where calls were made for systemic change after the viral video was posted on TikTok. 

Three River Valley High School football players who participated in the video spoke up, saying they regret their actions and have learned a hard lesson. 

River Valley High School students
Members of the River Valley High football team.

“I did not want to do it but looking back I wish I had done more to stop it,” said Adrian, a sophomore. “When the video was made, I was not feeling good about it and I froze. I wanted to get it over with so I could get to practice.”

River Valley students Adrian, Marcos, and Alex admit to taking part in the video with several other team members, though not willingly at first. 

The NAACP and the students’ parents asked that CBS Sacramento only identify the students who chose to come forward by their first names. 

“Part of me knew it was wrong when it was happening and I didn’t have the courage to stop myself or my teammates and I wish I would have,” said Marcos, a junior. “I am here today because I want people to know I am sorry. I apologize to anyone I have hurt or offended.”

CBS Sacramento isn’t showing the disturbing video that depicts the Black teens as slaves in their underwear.

Greater Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams watched the video and calls it shocking. 

“They were being auctioned off by the white students and they had nooses or belts around their necks to indicate they have or will be hung,” said Williams. 

The three students described giving in to peer pressure. 

“They needed another person to be in the video and being the only black person left in the locker room they all turned to me. I made it clear I didn’t want to do it and tried to leave but wasn’t able to,” said Alex, a senior. 

All three players received three-day suspensions. Their parents say they were removed from the football team.

“I am hurt that the school moved so quickly to punish us instead of taking their time to understand the situation better,” said Adrian. 

Williams says in conversations with the district Monday she asked why some white students who participated in the filming of the video were allegedly given lighter punishments than some of their black classmates who were in the video. 

“We do not believe the approach to prioritize punishment over education was most prudent. We also believe the punishment was not equitable in their distribution,” said Williams. 

Her call to action is bigger than just River Valley High School. She says this type of systemic racism is often hiding in plain sight. 

This video and fallout are just a loud examples of an often silent problem. 

“Every district is responsible to make a change,” said Williams. 

The three students who came forward to apologize have promised to learn from this and to be an example. 

“This video was harmful to the entire black community who counts on people like myself, who counts on people like myself to stand against these wrongs rather than participate in them,” said Alex. 

“I hope I would have the courage to stop something like this if I saw it happen in the future,” said Marcos.    

CBS Sacramento didn’t receive a response from Yuba City Unified school district leaders Monday when asked for comment on how the district is working with the NAACP to bring about change at River Valley High School. 

Williams said today she’s felt heard so far in these ongoing conversations that are meant to make sure there’s accountability within River Valley leadership.

She advocates for fostering cultures of inclusion, adding more black teachers and staff members for more representation, teaching more comprehensive lessons on black history, and continuing these important conversations. 

“We want to change the culture and the climate of the school,” said Williams. 

In light of other recent racially charged incidents at schools outside of River Valley, the Greater Sacramento NAACP is asking for information about any discriminatory events happening in school districts across the region so they can keep track of when and when they are happening. If necessary, they plan to involve the national chapter of the NAACP. 

Complaints can be submitted to the chapter online. 

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