(ROYAL OAK, Mich.) — Middle school students in a Detroit suburb chanted “build the wall” during lunchtime on Wednesday, hours after Donald Trump became president-elect of the United States, according to school officials.
The incident in Royal Oak, Michigan, was caught on cellphone video by a student sitting in the cafeteria as the chants rang out. By the time the video starts, the chants begin to fade, according to the mother of the student who recorded the video, but the seventh-grade students can still be heard saying “build the wall.”
The mother of the student who recorded the video told ABC News that racially motivated bullying has been getting progressively worse at the school and that her daughter felt she needed to document it. The chant continued on in the school gym after school was let out, according to the mother, who wished to remain anonymous.
The eight-second video circulated rapidly through social media after it was posted Wednesday and has been viewed more than 4 million times.
Royal Oak Middle School Principal Todd Noonan addressed the incident in a video statement recorded by the school production team, telling students that their teachers and families “push” them to “be open-minded to the beliefs and views of others.”
“Yesterday, there was an incident during seventh-grade lunch that caused your classmates, and many of your community members in Royal Oak and beyond, to feel alienated and unwelcomed,” Noonan said. “This is unacceptable.”
Noonan told his students that the chanting “made people feel unsafe” and that the incident was not reflective of who they are.
“Everyone is welcome in our community of learners,” Noonan said. “We build bridges. We work together. We push each other. We help each other. This is who we are.”
Noonan then invited school staff to attend lunch and “engage in meaningful dialogue” with the students, whom he called “awesome.”
“You belong here, and you are safe here,” Noonan said.
In a statement, the school district called the incident “brief” and said school personnel in the cafeteria responded immediately.
“We are committed to providing a safe, secure, and supportive learning environment for all students,” said Shawn Lewis-Lakin, superintendent of Royal Oak Schools. “We are working with our students to help them understand the impact of their words and actions on others in their school community. Our school district and each building in it works every day to be a welcoming community for all, inclusive and caring, where all students know they are valued, safe and supported.”
Families have expressed concern for students’ safety in the wake of the video’s release, Lewis-Lakin said, noting that the school district is working with law enforcement to respond to any and all threats that are made toward the students or schools.
“In responding to this incident — indeed in responding to this election –- we need to hear each other’s stories, not slogans, we need to work towards understanding, not scoring points, and we need to find a way to move forward that respects and values each and every member of our community,” Lewis-Lakin said.
The school and the school district did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for further comment.
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