Washington State middle school blasted for 'highly vile' licking game between staff and students
KENNEWICK, Wash. - A Washington State middle school hosted a licking competition between students and staff, which prompted outcry from parents over the "horrifying" and "highly vile" game.
In a video recorded by appalled students at Desert Hills Middle School in Kennewick, minor students and adult teachers are shown licking marshmallow cream off of either side of two clear plexiglass panes at the same time during a competition at a school a pep rally on March 31.
Students in the crowd could be heard screaming, "Ew," "Disgusting," "That’s so gross," and "What the heck?" in the video, which was later posted to Facebook by a concerned mother. Another student yelled, "Who thought that this was a good idea?"
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Megan Sa, the mother whose daughter sent her the video, told Fox News Digital that she originally emailed the superintendent, the school board and the human resources department asking for an explanation regarding what happened to see how they would be addressing the situation.
In the video, the principal is seen laughing while taking out his phone to film the scene, according to Sa. She also said she was "baffled" by another part of the video that showed a grown adult holding a child’s head to the plexiglass while licking the other side of the structure, although she said she was "most" alarmed by the final scene where the security guard "looked like he was licking the marshmallow off of the plexiglass in a sensual way."
"In my opinion, we do not send our children to school to be exposed to highly sexualized behavior by adults," she told Fox News Digital in a statement. "We send them to school to learn and for them to socialize with other people their ages.
"They shouldn’t have to sit in a gym for a school assembly and wonder ‘What is going on?’ Schools should be a safe place for children to go and this despicable display of adult behavior was hard to watch."
Sa said she called a couple of other moms to get their reaction and gauge if she was potentially overreacting, but she said she was met with similar reactions of parents asking, "How did the adults in the room allow this to happen?"
"At least five adults were in the room and they just continued to participate," she said. "This isn't the first instance where I've had a grievance with this school and I've gone to the principal about it."
"It was my understanding that these students were putting their names on a list to say, 'Yeah, I want to participate in a game at the assembly,' but the teachers and the administrators did not tell them what kind of game that they would be participating in," she said.
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When some of the children realized what the game was, Sa said some were pulling other kids from the bleachers to take their place.
"If this is such a harmless and not an ill-intended game, then why the hell did you not share with the students what the game was going to be and the ground rules?"
Sa said she wrote the school a three-page document to which the superintendent responded that they would be looking into it, but she said she had a feeling they were "going to push this under the rug" and decided to post it to Facebook to bring awareness to the event.
Once she posted the video online, Sa said she started talking with more parents in the community who told her they "had no idea it was this bad." She said she has even heard from people in their 30s who attended the school and said this happened when they attended Desert Hills Middle School.
"I've had many parents call me and say, 'I've had to have some pretty uncomfortable conversations with my kids around, 'Hey, this isn't right' and ‘This is why,'" she said. "I know there's a lot of people spreading gossip around [saying] this is grooming… I'm not sure I would go that far, but we can clearly see that if it were two adults in this same situation, HR would be getting called around sexual harassment."
Many parents of students at the school were horrified by the video footage (Photo by Jeffry W. Myers/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
The district's superintendent, Dr. Traci Pierce, issued a statement to the school's families on Friday, some two weeks after the event occurred, announcing that the district had concluded its investigation into the situation that she described as "not an appropriate activity."
"During the activity, some students felt very uncomfortable, and the activity was highly disturbing for some students, parents, families, and community members to watch on video," she said. "This activity does not have district approval and will never be repeated in the future."
Pierce admitted that "there is no question about the appropriateness of the activity and its negative impact," but that "after thoroughly investigating how and why this particular activity took place, it is clear that the intent of the activity was innocent and not ill-intended."
"There is zero evidence to suggest or support that this was in any way ‘grooming’ activity on the part of organizers or participants," she added. "That being said, the fact that the activity was planned, occurred, and not stopped, shows a lack of sound discernment and good judgment, and the activity is not aligned with district expectations."
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The school's principal, Casey Gant, offered a statement in the letter to parents in which he apologized for the activity.
"On behalf of Desert Hills Middle School, I would like to apologize for the activity that took place during our recent assembly," he said. "As building principal, I take ownership for the events that occur in my school, and I recognize the impact that this situation has had on our school community."
"I am committed to the safety of our students and staff and will ensure that all future activities meet the highest professional standards and adhere to district policy," he added. "Again, I apologize that this incident occurred and for the negativity brought to the Desert Hills community."
Sa called the principal's apologetic statement "a slap in the face" because they "essentially weren't protecting our kids" but now, because on social media, they apologized with their "tail between their legs."
"My concern was, and which I think happened, is you're losing all credibility in an investigation if you're allowing the parties who participated to corroborate over a couple of days' time or hours' time to get their stories straight," she said. "The fact that there was no suspension or no termination or anything like that taking place, I just felt like they lost all credibility on their investigation."