Decatur schools confront another student’s racist video

Decatur Superintendent David Dude  expressed anger over the release of  a year-old video of a student posing with a toy gun and using a racial slur.

Decatur Superintendent David Dude  expressed anger over the release of  a year-old video of a student posing with a toy gun and using a racial slur.

Another racist video by a student is upending Decatur and its reputation as a progressive city, and police are investigating with the school principal.

A five-second video shows the son of a Decatur High School administrator holding what appears to be a toy gun that the boy says he uses to kill black people. The boy utters a racial epithet and then imitates the sound of three gunshots. The video was made a year ago when the teen was 14, and was posted online Wednesday night by other Decatur students.

His mother said there is no excuse for his actions.

“He was not making a threat but was inexcusably trying to parody people who make such threats,” Cheryl Nahmias wrote in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday. As the International Baccalaureate coordinator and an instructional coach, Nahmias interacts with many students and their parents, in a school where 1 in 4 students is black.

“We are so sorry that our son’s actions have contributed to the racial discord and unfairness that continue to plague our country,” she wrote.

The teen is the nephew of David E. Nahmias, the presiding justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.

It is at least the third racist video to emerge online in a month from the city of 25,000 at the edge of Atlanta.

David Dude, the City Schools of Decatur superintendent, was quick to react, posting an emotional statement on Facebook Thursday not long after midnight. He wrote that he was angry, disgusted, heartbroken “and so many other things.”

One of the prior videos showed a Decatur High teen issuing a racial epithet at least twice. Another showed a different teen emphasizing a racial epithet as she lip-synced a popular profanity-laced song.

The outrage from those videos led Dude to meet online with more than 150 students last month. In a subsequent letter to the community, he wrote that they were understandably disappointed, frustrated and outraged, adding that they wanted “a more culturally inclusive” school system.

On Thursday, Dude felt compelled to write another apologetic column, saying both the content and the timing of the latest video were terrible.

“For it to happen the day after George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis police, the week after the DeKalb County NAACP installed a marker outside our courthouse memorializing African American lynching victims, the month that cell phone video was leaked exposing us to the realization that Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down in a modern day lynching,” he wrote, “this is unfathomable to me.”

Justice Nahmias called his nephew’s video “disgusting” and said he was embarrassed and saddened after learning about it late Wednesday.

“It is simply awful and inexcusable, and it does not reflect my family’s values or what we have tried to teach our children about the importance of treating all people with respect and dignity,” the presiding justice wrote in a message sent to the AJC by a spokesperson for the high court.

He said he loves his nephew and that the video “seems so out of character” for him.

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Decatur High School principal Rochelle Lofstrand sent an email to parents Thursday saying she is leading the district’s investigation in conjunction with the city police. The police did not immediately respond to a query about their investigation.

Dude, in his Facebook post, apologized to students of color and promised the district would take action though he did not specify how. He called on parents to teach their children about racism.

A tentative date for Decatur High School graduation has been set for August 1 but is dependent on CDC recommendation and a significant remission in COVID-19 by midsummer. Bill Banks file photo for the AJC

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The video alarmed black residents, said Mawuli Davis, co-chair of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, a Decatur group.

"We're outraged that these incidents continue to occur," he said. "It's not only insulting, but it's painful." The group has been pressuring Decatur to address racial equity since a report two years ago showed black students were disciplined in far higher proportion than white students.

Davis said he would call on the city and school leaders to meet Friday morning with members of his group and students who want systemic change.

“Until white people see it as a problem,” he said, “it’s not going to get fixed.”

Nahmias, the student’s mom, wrote that she wants residents, especially her black neighbors, friends and colleagues, to know that she and her family are “mortified” by her son’s actions. The family wants him to face the consequences and intends “to repair the colossal damage that he has done to his classmates and to the larger community.”