WASHINGTON (WLWT) — A third-party investigation into an altercation between Covington Catholic High School students and Native Americans that went viral on social media “exonerates our students,” Bishop of Covington Roger Foys says.
WLWT reports that the Diocese of Covington launched the investigation after students from the all-boys school were seen in a confrontation with Native Americans and other during a visit to Washington, D.C. in January.
Foys says the investigation “exonerates our students so they can move on with their lives.”
After the videos went viral, many said the Covington high schoolers were being disrespectful — even racist — toward Native Americans, in particular one elder.
Other videos showed a more complicated scene.
According to the report released Wednesday, 240 man hours were used through the course of the investigation. Students who attended the trip were asked to voluntarily give their statements regarding the events on Jan. 18. Forty-three students gave their account.
In addition, 16 chaperones were on the trip. All nine faculty chaperones participated, and four parent chaperones gave statements.
Through the course of the investigation, officials said they saw “no evidence that students responded with any offensive or racist statements of their own.”
This is despite an earlier encounter with a group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites, who “clearly addressed offensive statements to the students.”
In addition, the investigation states that students performed school chants to drown out the Black Hebrew Israelites group, but claimed there was no evidence that the school performed a “Build the Wall” chant, as many on social media claimed.
When the Native American protester — identified as Nathan Phillips — approached the group, the students claimed they were not threatened, the report states, but merely confused.
Nine chaperones were in attendance at the time of the controversy, the report states, citing video evidence.
Many of the students in the viral videos were seen wearing “Make America Great Again” gear. According to the report, most students purchased the gear while in Washington, and there is no evidence of prohibiting political apparel on school-sponsored trips.
Other videos from Washington, D.C. that day shows young people saying “It’s not rape if you enjoy it”
and another showing a group of young men harassing several girls. The report states that the person involved in the first comment was not a Covington Catholic student, and there is no evidence that the people involved in the second video were students.
Foys released a statement in the wake of the investigation, saying the investigation “has demonstrated that our students did not instigate the incident that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial.”
The bishop went on to say, “In these past several weeks since the original video went viral, two well-worn and oft-used adages come to mind:
‘Seeing is believing’ and ‘Perception is reality.’ The immediate world-wide reaction to the initial video led everyone to believe that our students had initiated the incident and the perception of those few minutes of video became a reality.”