SMITHFIELD, Utah (KUTV) — The principal of a Cache County high school is apologizing for a video shown last week to students during an assembly.
Michael Monson, principal of Sky View High School in Smithfield, told parents in an email over the weekend that the four-and-a-half-minute video – shown during an assembly Tuesday – "proved to be more divisive than unifying as it relates to race."
"I apologize to both our parents and students that we did not review the video beforehand because it was not something we had seen in other student presentations and not aware that it would be used," Monson wrote in the email Saturday, which was obtained by KUTV 2News. "We have reached out to the presenter and expressed our concerns."
The video, titled "400 Years," depicts mistreatment of people of color over many years. The video is set to a song and uses the phrase, "I'll stop using my privilege just to look away," in one scene showing the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis officer, was convicted in April of murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. He was later sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison.
One parent reached out to KUTV 2News last week after the video was shown, calling it “racist," "woke,” and “anti-law enforcement."
Other parents who spoke with KUTV 2News outside the high school Monday afternoon said they hadn't seen the video and didn't want to comment.
In the email to parents, the principal said the presentation from Dr. Jacquelyn Thompson – a retired educator who was recently hired by the Davis School District as an assistant superintendent to work on equity and diversity issues – was positive until the end, when the video was shown.
KUTV 2News reached out to the Cache County School District multiple times for comment Monday but didn't hear back.
The Davis School District issued the following statement late Monday about Thompson: "We have important issues to address in Davis School District, and Dr. Jackie Thompson is highly respected in the community. We believe she will assist us moving forward in a way that is best for Davis School District and its students."
Below is the full email sent to parents by the Sky View High School principal:
Dear Sky View Parents,
On Tuesday, November 23rd, we held an assembly, where we invited Dr. Jackie Thompson to speak to our students. Dr. Thompson is a long-time educator who has been a teacher and administrator for nearly forty years. I have known her for a number of years and find her to be one of the kindest and gentlest people I know. I have heard her speak on several occasions and have recognized the goodness she has tried to convey to both young people and to adults. She has done many presentations at both the state and national levels. Her invitation came upon the recommendations I had received from a number of other principals around the state, as they expressed that her message was one that had positively impacted their student bodies.
We believe the assembly accomplished our intended purpose until a video was shown near the end of the assembly. The video proved to be more divisive than unifying as it relates to race. I apologize to both our parents and students that we did not review the video beforehand because it was not something we had seen in other student presentations and not aware that it would be used. We have reached out to the presenter and expressed our concerns.
Contrary to some reports, to our knowledge students were not forced to be at or remain in the assembly any more or less than we normally encourage our students to attend our assemblies. We encourage parents and students to discuss the assembly and to let us know if you have further concerns that we can address.
At Sky View, we strive to teach the principles of our mission statement, “Relationship, Character and Knowledge for Life”. Throughout the year, we specifically try to address these principles through our Rock Advisory and through general assemblies. Sky View High School has a great reputation for the atmosphere of the school and the overall kindness that students show to one another. I believe this occurs because many come from families that are teaching these values.
Again, if you have any further concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is Mike.Monson@ccsdut.org
Sky View High School