HOUMA, La. — An overt display of racist behavior is lighting up social feeds in Terrebonne Parish.
The video was captured Wednesday at Vandebilt Catholic High School in Houma at lunchtime on Wednesday afternoon.
In the video, a White student walks up behind a Black student in the crowded lunchroom and throws a handful of cotton balls at him. The boy then begins to slap him repeatedly with a belt.
The Black student then stands up and pushes the student who was hitting him.
Those familiar with the school say he’s one of few Black students at the school. Eyewitness News is not identifying either boy because they are minors.
But alumni and others in the community have reacted strongly to the video.
“You know, we can’t sweep this under the rug. We can’t push this off and make this more skeletons in the closet,” said PJ Allridge.
Allridge coached the boy who was hit with the belt and is friends with the child’s family. He says he was disappointed by what he saw when the video was sent to him.
“That’s Vandebilt? Like, this is Vandebilt. Houma. Right here, not that far from where I live. A school that I went to, a school that I represent, a school that I coached at. And to see this, it’s hurting. That we’re living in a time such as 2022, to where it’s like we’re not in the 50s, we’re not in the 60s,” he said.
The archdiocese issued a statement Thursday, saying there is no tolerance for racist or bullying behavior. Writing, quote, “[Wednesday’s] actions by a few are not consistent with the values and mission of our school.”
The parents of the child who was targeted also included a statement in that press release, thanking people for their support and writing, “We will continue to pray for our school community as a whole, that we not only get through this together but that we each learn a valuable lesson from what has taken place.”
The family met with school administrators and the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff says they’ve opened an investigation.
The ACLU of Louisiana calls the incident an “inexcusable injustice.”
“This was a child who thought what he was doing was ok. Potentially even funny. When we think about bullying, when we think about young children who experience bullying and what happens to them, this is how it starts,” said Director Nora Ahmed.
The archdiocese hasn’t named the student who caused this incident and won’t comment on disciplinary action. But says they’re following school investigation policies.