GREENVILLE — A video said to show a Greenville High School employee dragging a special needs student by her hair has gone viral on Facebook, gaining more than two million views and sparking outrage.
Kesha Williams, who posted the video on her Facebook page Thursday, said she did so because she has a special needs child at the school herself and if it had happened to her child, she would have wanted another parent to do the same.
Williams, who has three children at the school, said her other daughter received the video from the student who recorded it Thursday via AirDrop. Her daughter then sent the video to her, and she made the decision to post it.
Williams’ daughter also received a second video, also shot Thursday, which shows an adult hitting the child with an object and then restraining her in her lap.
Lekesha Redmon confirmed Friday it was her daughter, who attends Greenville High School, being dragged by the hair in the video but referred all questions to her attorney, who said it was too early to make a statement.
Patrice Guilfoyle, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Education, said the department is investigating and “will take appropriate action.”
At a press conference at the district offices Friday morning, spokesman Everett Chinn and Superintendent Leeson Taylor cited personnel issues when declining to answer questions about the job status of the employee in the video.
Chinn did confirm the woman in the video was a Greenville School District employee, but could not confirm whether the child was a special needs student. Chinn said they are currently working to get witness statements from adults and students shown in the video and are collaborating with local law enforcement.
Greenville Assistance Police Chief Michael Merchant said no charges had been filed and the incident is still under investigation. He referred all other questions to the school district.
The school district allows corporal punishment with certain restrictions. There must be parental permission and it must be performed in the principal’s office and by a licensed employee.
The district apparently was already aware of two videos, according to Taylor, but “another video emerged that we were not aware of.” Taylor did not specify which video, although Williams only posted two videos.
Williams did say someone associated with the school district sent her two additional videos which she was unable to play and therefore did not post.
Williams, whose daughter was in the same class as the other student, said it “was shocking to see.”
“My daughter didn’t go to school yesterday due to personal problems, but this has also caused me not to want me to let her go. She’s developmentally delayed, but she understands real well,” Williams said. “(This child) is the type of child, she doesn’t speak well, you can barely understand what she is saying.”
Taylor said despite rumors on social media, no student has been suspended because of recording or releasing the video.
“I want to express appreciation to the student who recorded the video,” Taylor told the media.
Jody Owens, managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Mississippi, said violent acts like those in the video “contribute to a negative school climate, normalize violence and promote fear and anxiety among students and staff.”
Additionally, the lack of reaction from other students and staff in the video indicates “a school environment in which violence is normalized.”
The SPLC encouraged the district to use resources from the U.S. Department of Education to change its school climate and to “engage staff, students, parents and community members in dialogue around improving the climate of the District’s schools,” the statement continued.