A northeastern Pennsylvania school district said it has disciplined students involved in the making of a racist video last week mocking the majority Black Pittsburgh high school it defeated in the state football championship. 

The Pittsburgh Public Schools accused Southern Columbia Area students of “egregious and unsportsmanlike behavior” following its game Friday against the city’s Westinghouse High School when racist images and a video began circulating on social media.

Southern Columbia said it investigated the allegations and took action in accordance with its student handbook. The district added that the students who were involved have been disqualified from participating in any extracurricular activities for a calendar year.

“The Southern Columbia Area School District does not condone nor tolerate any form of racism or harassment,” the district said in a statement. “We as a district have taken these allegations very seriously, and we continue to hold our administrators, staff and students to high standards of conduct. We apologize to anyone harmed by these events.” 

In the video posted on the social media platform TikTok and shared with the Pittsburgh Union Progress, two young men are shown riding in a moving vehicle. Text over the video reads, “Westinghouse is gonna win states.” The man in the foreground holds his face in his hands. Laughter and ominous music plays in the background. 

After a few seconds, the young man looks up, smiles and holds a sign that appears to read PIAA 2A Football Champions. Music continues and a voice in the recording uses a racial slur, “Gotcha, n—–.” The video was saved by a Pittsburgh resident and reposted on Facebook. Dozens of people commented, and nearly all condemned the video.

Around the same time as the video was posted, several images of what Southern Columbia said was an off-campus community pep rally began circulating showing banners that read “Southern State of Mind” and “Whip Westinghouse,” with a drawing of a bullwhip on it.

Southern Columbia said it determined that the signs “were not intended to carry racial connotations.”

“Several of the slogans showcased as part of this community event were used in previous competitions across different years, sports and opponents; some were copied from media headlines of previous years’ state title wins,” the district said. “While it may not have been the intent to communicate racially insensitive messaging, we recognize that these messages may have still been hurtful to others.”

Southern Columbia said it would institute additional training programs highlighting ways to avoid language that has the potential to be misinterpreted or insensitive.

“It is our hope that everyone involved will learn and grow from these situations as we move forward,” the district said.

Andrew writes about education and more for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at agoldstein@unionprogress.com.

Andrew Goldstein

Andrew writes about education and more for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at agoldstein@unionprogress.com.