ALLEGHENY COUNTY (KDK) — A South Hills School District is speaking out after a disturbing video landed on social media over the weekend.
The video shows two middle schoolers from West Jefferson Hills School District allegedly reenacting the death of George Floyd, mimicking the moment a now-charged Minneapolis police officer pinned his knee down on Floyd’s neck.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller talked to the West Jefferson Hills Schools District and the Pleasant Hills police chief for reaction.
Pleasant Hills Police Chief Brian Finnerty told KDKA’s Meghan Schiller he “couldn’t believe” what he was watching after countless residents called the department over the weekend to report the video.
Steelers running back James Conner shared the video on Twitter to his 420,000 followers with the comment “smh.”
He deleted the tweet Monday, saying “make the twitter timeline full of positivity! Like I said ive been guilty of retweeting negative content but thats not it. They want the sickening/ shameless videos at 100k+ retweets to keep us divided. Make unity and togetherness the only content we see.”
On Monday afternoon, barricades block the entrance to Pleasant Hills Middle School. The district’s superintendent Dr. Michael Ghilani released a statement and confirmed that this video does in fact show two district middle school students.
“On Sunday morning, the West Jefferson Hills School District was made aware of an offensive video that has been circulating on social media. The video appears to show two district middle school students making light of the recent tragedy in Minneapolis related to the death of George Floyd.
“We are shocked and disgusted by the video. We have received numerous emails from members of our community who share in our outrage, and we assure you that such actions will not be tolerated.
“District administration, school police, and local police are investigating the video and possible student involvement. Due to student confidentiality and legalities, we cannot share further details or disciplinary action at this time publicly.
“Let me be very clear: racism and hate have no place in the West Jefferson Hills School District. We will do everything in our power to ensure students continue to have access to a safe and positive learning environment.”
The video, posted to Snapchat, shows one boy on top of another boy, with his knee on the other’s neck.
One student is saying “Please sir, stop it, I cannot breathe, please sir, I am going to die.”
People are heard laughing in the background, and the clip lasts fewer than 15 seconds.
The district told KDKA it learned of the video on Sunday morning. Shortly before, the police received numerous calls.
“It was sent to us on Saturday evening. We were shocked, disheartened, disgusting video,” said Finnerty.
Expect to see an increase in police officer patrols across the South Hills and along Route 51 in the coming days, according to the police chief.
He told KDKA’s Meghan Schiller that he’s also sending officers to a planned demonstration Wednesday at noon at the Southland Shopping Plaza.
“They want to show that this is not them. This is not who they stand for and that this is a disturbing video and also it takes away from what really happened about George Floyd,” said Finnerty.
The demonstration will happen in front of the LA Fitness on Wednesday.
Chief Finnerty described the parking lot as a “safe space” for the demonstrators.