Updated: Mitchell High Principal Responds to “Rape Dance” Investigation

Tom Powell, WREG-TV (Memphis), May 6, 2008

A video posted on YouTube.com is causing a lot of concern among Memphis City School parents. Now were trying to find solutions.

The clip labeled, “Mitchell High School Memphis . . . Rape Dat Ho,” was posted last month. It was flagged as offensive then taken down, but not before News Channel 3 recorded the clip on tape.

The images are disturbing. They are graphic and hard to watch. It shows young men and women engaging in what one parent described as “sex with clothes on.”

We knew the video would get a strong reaction. We aired the video Monday to expose the problem in order to stir constructive conversation, then offer solutions.

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MCS Administration’s Response:

We showed the YouTube video to a group of five administrators last week. They offered a response after viewing the tape.

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News Channel 3 received a written request for a copy of the tape, and we provided that copy to the administration Tuesday.

“With further investigation, if we are able to identify any student that participated in this, it totally violates our student code of conduct and they will be disciplined accordingly,” said Franklin.

The Superintendent has now responded:

“To say that we are troubled by the video that aired on one of the local television stations last night would be an understatement. We are shocked and disappointed by the behavior of students shown in the video clip. These images demonstrate a serious issue that educators, parents and community stakeholders alike must focus on—the need for a more productive partnership between schools and homes to ensure children understand how to act as responsible, mature young adults with a sense of self respect,” wrote Superintendent Dan Ward in a statement sent to News Channel 3.

School Board Members Watch the Tape:

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We wanted to talk to parents to get their reaction to the tape after it aired Monday night. We ran into another hurdle when we approached them outside Mitchell High School Tuesday afternoon. An administrator with the school tried to silence the parents. “We’re trying not to do any interviews with this right here,” he told one mother who was about to talk with us about the video.

“I would like for you to please leave,” he told our camera crew.

We didn’t leave.

Parents wanted to give us their opinions on the dirty dancing, so we stuck around to listen.

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On Your Side Investigation Uncovers New Tape:

During our investigation into the first tape, we found another clip on YouTube called “Mitchell High Talent Show.”

It starts off with a performance, but by the end several students are simulating sex on the same gym floor as the first tape.

There’s a big difference on the second clip. You can see several administrators walking past the camera. Eventually students start pouring onto the gym floor in excitement over what they are seeing. At the end of the clip an adult ushers the crowd back to the bleachers.

MCS sent us the following statement after we sent a clip of the second video:

“Pop-culture, the Internet and mainstream media greatly influence the activity and behavior of today’s youth. We trust that our partners in education—parents, guardians and school families will continue to reinforce to children the appropriate way to conduct themselves before, during and after school hours.”—Memphis City Schools

The statement did not answer any questions about how high school administrators responded to the behavior. We sent the following questions back to MCS:

* Why did it take so long for an administrator to address what was happening on the gym floor?

* Were the students reprimanded for the behavior they displayed at the end of the talent show?

* Does this demonstrate a pattern of tolerance toward this type of behavior?

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Updated 5/08/2007 Mitchell High Principal Responds:

May 8, 2008

“I would first like to apologize to the Memphis community and to the Memphis City Schools family for the embarrassment these videos have caused. I take full responsibility for the inappropriate content in one of the acts in a talent show, and understand we should have taken immediate action and ended that performance.

While the matter of another video shown on a local station remains an open investigation, I want to make it clear that we take this incident very seriously. We are working with Memphis City Schools Security to determine if that footage was also taped at Mitchell High and whether students from our school were involved.

Today, I conveyed to our entire student body the message that every student and staff member should conduct themselves in an appropriate and responsible manner. We hold high expectations of our students at Mitchell

High and expect each member of our school family to be respectful of others and, most importantly, of themselves. I would like to assure the community that this sort of behavior is not a reflection of the majority of our students who follow the Student Code of Conduct and who come to school to learn. Our goal is to continue to provide the best possible learning environment and to develop all aspects of our students’ lives.”

John Ware

Principal

Mitchell High School

 Students by Ethnicity 

 This School 

 TN School Average 

% American Indian

n/a

n/a

% Asian

n/a

1%

% Hispanic

n/a

4%

% Black

136% [sic]

22%

% White

n/a

67%

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