By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Diocesan and school officials apologized for a video in which several students at Assumption High School reenacted the murder of George Floyd and posted it on the social media platform Tik Tok. The video spread rapidly to other social media Oct. 28.
School administrators released a statement Oct. 29 stating, “… as an educational institution, we work with students and families to promote understanding. The Assumption Family is heartbroken by recent social media activity reflecting a highly unacceptable attitude regarding the precious gift of life. We recognize the hurtful impact of the posting and the reality that social media has the power to affect all people.”
In a later statement to The Catholic Messenger, the administration said, “We hear the voices expressing the pain that a history of racism within our human family causes, and we apologize for the role that Assumption High School played in contributing to that pain. We commit to ongoing work within our Assumption community to provide a loving, safe, compassionate and merciful environment for all.”
The statement said that conversations are being held with students on how “we as a school community can do better in terms of understanding and helping our students understand issues of race, racism, prejudice and discrimination. We view the racial diversity of our student population as a tremendous strength, and we celebrate the opportunity to learn with and from each other.”
The school is exploring ways that “education on these important matters can be implemented into our student experience. This includes conversations with community members who can offer perspective and guidance.”
Pastoral guidance and resources provided by the Catholic Church will be a part of that education process. Examples include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Open Wide Our Hearts: the enduring call to love — a pastoral letter against racism,” “Responding to the Sin of Racism,” and “A Catholic Response to Racism.”
The statement to the Messenger said, “We are all sinners, but the mercy of God provides a path for healing. We remain grateful for our board-approved Code of Conduct that provides a multi-tiered student disciplinary response that includes education, consequence and atonement.”
Bishop Thomas Zinkula reiterated the church’s “strong stance against racism” and noted he has written and preached regularly on the topic of racism. “I regret and reproach any racist behavior in our parishes, schools and other institutions. I have been in communication with the administration at Assumption. They are taking this matter very seriously and will be implementing a series of action steps to address it.”
Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, stated, “We are called in the current moment to actively move beyond simple plans, policies and statements that encourage non-racist thinking and fashion action plans that lead to a racially conscious education for all of our children in the Diocese of Davenport Catholic schools.”
“This past summer Bishop Zinkula issued a call to diocesan leaders to address the issue of racism in a more intentional manner in our Catholic schools and faith formation programs. As school leaders, we are motivated to work with our stakeholders and our Catholic community to devise a diocesan strategy to lift up the voice of faith against any forms of racism in our Catholic schools.”
A renewed effort in education and catechesis about racism and effective models to respond to it are underway, Morrison said.