Adults have failed Covington Catholic children

Published 6:21 pm Thursday, January 24, 2019


Contributing columnist

The controversy involving Covington Catholic High School students has been in the news almost a week, which is forever in our manic, 24/7 news cycle. There are several videos making the rounds on social media, students have been placed on national morning news programming, and one student has released an official statement created by a PR firm that has worked for Mitch McConnell.

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The question I have been asking since I saw the first video: Where are the adults? Where are the teachers and chaperones that were in charge of the safety of these students? They are the ones who need to be interrogated.

Covington Catholic students have a reputation as being unruly and obnoxious. This behavior was on full display after their trip to Washington, D. C. While I firmly believe the students need to be held accountable for their poor judgment and bad behavior, I lay this controversy at the feet of the adults in charge of those students.

The controversy appears to have started when a group of five Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) adult protesters began yelling and taunting the students for wearing MAGA hats and for being white. These protesters had previously taunted Native Americans in the same area. They were looking for someone to engage their bad behavior. A group of immature boys from Kentucky took the bait.

According to the student’s PR statement, when the BHI protesters continued to yell at the students, permission was given by a chaperone for the group of male, predominately white, immature boys, to do a school spirit chant directed toward the protesters. This got the group of students riled up and ready for action.

Why did the adult think this was appropriate? Why didn’t the adults in charge of these immature boys move them away from the protesters? The group was in front of the Lincoln Memorial waiting for their buses. There was plenty of room for them to move away and dissipate the negative energy.

The first time I watched the full video I shuttered. I could feel the vibe and knew it would end poorly. The yelling and taunting between the students and protesters increased, the boys’ energy began to rise, and the group got larger.

The next event has been sliced and diced by all sides of this mess. A small group of Native Americans began to move between the protesters and the students. One of the Native Americans had a hand-held drum, which he played as he chanted. The students very quickly surrounded the gentleman. They jumped up and down, clapped, did the tomahawk chop, and chanted the “war cry” that can be heard at sporting events.

The media has bashed these boys for not knowing the history between the Catholic Church and Native Americans. I hope that somewhere in their education, they have learned about the Church and its horrendous role in the subjugation of Native Americans. They get a small break from me in this instance. Their brains stopped functioning in any logical manner when they did their school spirit chant. Their behavior was appalling but they had moved from individuals to a mob in seconds.

Where were the adults in charge of these boys? Apparently, they were watching, not making any effort to intervene. Why would any responsible adult think this behavior was appropriate?

Many of the students wore shirts that identified them as Covington Catholic students. There were many, many people videoing the throng. A responsible adult would have deduced the nightmare that was coming.

Where were the responsible adults?

One student became the focus of this debacle. He wore a MAGA hat and stood toe-to-toe with the drumming Native American. He stood directly in front of the gentleman and stared at him in obvious contempt. Where was the responsible adult who should have stepped in and pulled this student away? Where were the adults in charge of these boys while their appalling behavior was being recorded as the world would later witness?

As I stated earlier, I believe these students must be held accountable for their very bad behavior. They need to be educated on mob mentality and why they should have moved away from the initial protesters. However, I doubt anything will happen other than slaps on the back, laughter about how funny the whole thing was, and the boys continue to live their white male privilege, entitled lives.

Covington Catholic has a reputation for its toxic culture. The adults set the tone for behavior that is acceptable. The adults on this trip clearly held the expectation for these boys that taunting and mocking was acceptable as opposed to walking away. People in the lives of these boys will face the consequences of this culture, but will the boys?

G. Elaine Wilson Reddy, JD, is a professional educator, consultant and advocate. She lives in Danville.