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Chaperones caused Covington Catholic chaos

| Friday, January 25, 2019

Certainly the spectacle following the annual March for Life on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was an unparalleled learning experience for the Covington Catholic High School students from Kentucky. Most assuredly the vitriolic slurs and insults bellowed by the Black Hebrew Israelite protestors were nothing like any their chaperones had ever heard hurled within their community south of Cincinnati. But undeniably, the adult chaperones failed to control their students by keeping them at the top of the first flight of stairs or moving them further away. More importantly, the teacher chaperone who permitted the students to excite themselves by chanting their own cheers did not act like a teacher, adult or chaperone.

To be clear, the Covington Catholic students are minors. School administrators, and by extension the traveling on-site chaperones are delegated a proxy from the diocese to supervise those children. That proxy demands that chaperones must always stand up to be the best of who we are — as Catholics who profess to respect the dignity of the disrespectful and as Americans who protect the rights of even the despicable.

On Sunday, the Covington Catholic Diocese announced that it has commissioned a third party to investigate the matter. Creating a timeline with audio will be an easy task. The investigators will be hard pressed to counter the optics of 16-year-old Nick Sandmann wearing a “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hat, blocking the path while other students opened a lane and sneering nose-to-nose across from American Indian elder Nathan Phillips. When one wears a MAGA hat, one announces ownership of the owner, including just four days prior the nasty, insulting tweets using “Pocahontas” as a slur, or a recording bragging how he grabbed women, paying hush money to silence extramarital affairs with “models” and embracing a checkered history of “embellishing” the truth. The MAGA administration offers little that is consistent with the Church’s social mission other than the lip service of being anti-abortion.

Easily the investigation will review the plethora of recordings available on social media. This columnist has watched nearly five hours of troubling video from more than a dozen sources. AOL News collated several videos together for easy reference where the most instructive seems to come from the Washington Post, entitled, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

At 1:20, the Black Hebrew Israelites leader calls a woman “a blue-eyed demon.” Her friend quickly steps between the two and pushes the female away. That interceptive movement away from conflict is exactly what Covington Catholic adults should have done with their students rather than allow at 1:54, the bare-chested student to lead reprisal chants before about 40 bystanders at the base of the steps. A prior sequence at 1:24 shows the students initially walking away while the Israelite leader calls them “crackers.”

At 3:09, other students allowed Phillips a path while only Sandmann stood his ground and sneered at Phillips. At 3:20, the video angle clearly shows the chanting students who had given Phillips a path now located behind and off to the left of Sandmann’s standoff. At 4:00, parent chaperone Jim Wilson explains during his CBS interview that he could only influence eight to 10 boys who knew him to move away from the Black Hebrew Israelites. Yet none of the more than five hours reviewed ever shows any adult at the forefront of the activities to stop the bare-chested Tarzan cheerleader who controlled the students’ attention. The adults simply needed to wave their arms above their heads. Ultimately, the inability of students to recognize their own chaperones rests as a failure with Covington Catholic administrators.

For his part, Sandmann has released a statement through a public relations firm acknowledging that students parted as Phillips waded through the crowd. Yet in other interviews, Sandmann contends he had a right to stand his ground. Sandmann further explains during a NBC interview at 4:52 that Phillips did not attempt to walk around him to climb the steps, although other students had stepped aside. He also noted others had provoked his classmates “into a peaceful response of school spirit.”

The YouTube posting entitled, “CHIEF EPHRAIM & THE PULL UP BOYS PT2 FACE OFF WITH ESAU,” exposes chaperone failures on the ground, as well as the teaching inadequacies at Covington Catholic. At 13:40, a student wearing a gray Bengals hooded sweatshirt and a Bengals ear-flapped fury hat callously shouts, “It’s not rape if you enjoy it.”

If at 14:05, the bearded man with the ski tag on his zipper was a chaperone, he allowed his charges within three feet of the insult-spewing Black Hebrew Israelites. A rewind to the earlier 9:20 mark shows that the students previously were jeering but standing slightly further back at six feet away. During the nine-minute timeframe, the Israelite leader asks when the students will shoot up another school, another church or another synagogue, then proclaims pointing to the students: “This is what terrorism looks like because you shoot up schools; our people don’t.”

Adults should have corralled students an hour earlier and moved them to the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps. It is not until the 20:35 mark of part two, nearly an hour after the first Israelite leader’s slurs, that the students yell their departing words as they run en masse to their busses.

Bystanders like Florida attorney Jessica Travis said, “The kids really went into a mob mentality, honestly,” adding that she did not see any chaperones in control. She heard one student tell the Hebrew Israelites to “drink the Trump water.”

Regardless of the reprehensible insults hurled at the Covington Catholic students, adults should have turned the other cheek and moved the group away. No excuses will suffice.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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