Crime & Courts

Cardinal Newman learned of racist videos July 13, but ‘limited’ in what it could say

5 things to know about Cardinal Newman School

Here are five facts about Cardinal Newman School, located in Richland County.
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Here are five facts about Cardinal Newman School, located in Richland County.

Following revelations that a Cardinal Newman student threatened “to shoot up’’ the campus, administrators at the Catholic secondary school will meet with parents this week to answer questions about the racist videos that showed the 16-year-old student firing a gun at targets he said represented African Americans.

Cardinal Newman principal Robert Loia sent a letter Sunday night to parents announcing the town hall meeting Thursday and attempting to explain more about the racist texts and videos the youth shared with fellow students. Sunday’s letter was the second Loia sent to parents over the weekend.

He said the school was unable to tell parents about the threat sooner, in part because an investigation was ongoing and because of student privacy issues.

The State reported Friday that the 16-year-old Cardinal Newman student had been filmed saying he hated blacks and firing guns. In another video, the teen threatened a shooting at Cardinal Newman, a school of more than 500 students in northeast Richland County, authorities said. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department, which arrested the student, has not named him.

Authorities say texts and videos showing the racist statements and violent threat circulated among students in May before school was dismissed for the summer.

But in his letter Sunday, Loia said the school only found out about the racist videos on Saturday, July 13 when a parent, who had learned of the group texts and videos, contacted the school. Cardinal Newman then contacted the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the letter said.

On July 15, Cardinal Newman officials met with the teen’s parents and said they planned to expel the teenager “because we do not condone or tolerate racist or threatening behavior,’’ Loia’s letter said. The 16-year-old’s parents instead withdrew him from Cardinal Newman, Loia said.

Then, over the next few days, school officials met with students who had received racist videos through a text chain, he said.

On July 17, after one of the meetings with students and their parents, Cardinal Newman officials learned of the threat of a shooting at the school, prompting authorities to arrest him, according to the letter.

A parent had told school officials that she had found a video on her child’s iPad “in which the student threatened to ‘shoot up’ the school,’’ Loia wrote

“We again immediately contacted the Sheriff’s Department. They arrested the teen that evening.’’

In one video, reviewed by The State over the weekend, the teenager describes himself as a “hater of all black men” and twice uses the N-word. He pretends an object on the ground is an African American and shoots it repeatedly with two guns.

He then looks at the camera and says: “Thank you for watching my PSA. F--- all (racial slur).”

A key question among some parents is why they were not told about the shooting threat to the school. Cardinal Newman and the Catholic Diocese of Charleston acknowledged the threat only after The State newspaper reported Friday night about the student’s racist videos and threats.

Loia said the school chose not to notify parents because the ‘’threat had been neutralized,’’ the Richland County Sheriff’s Department was still investigating and the school had “concerns regarding confidentiality of student information.

“We felt limited in what we could say publicly at that time,’’ Loia’s letter said. “If, while all these events were unfolding, the school leadership team and or diocesan officials believed the school community was in danger, we would have immediately communicated with you.’’

Loia’s letter called the videos “reprehensible and hurtful,’’ and had prompted the school to look at how to provide additional diversity appreciation training for faculty, students and the community.

Thursday’s meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Cardinal Newman auditorium. The Sheriff’s Department will also be on hand to answer questions, the letter said.

Staff Writer Avery G. Wilks contributed to this story.

Wendy J. Olson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho, talks generally about hate crime laws. What makes these crimes unique is that they are directed at whole groups of people, she said.

Sammy Fretwell has written about the environment for more than 20 years. Among the matters he covers are climate change, wildlife issues, nuclear policy, pollution, land protection, coastal development, energy and state environmental policy. Fretwell, who grew up in Anderson County, is a University of South Carolina graduate. Reach him at 803 771 8537.