Covington Catholic School kids will not be punished after investigation concludes
A few weeks back, the news was awash with reports of a group of schoolboys who had allegedly harassed a Native American elder. The pupils, who were from Covington Catholic School in Kentucky, had been in Washington DC in order to participate in the March for Life and protest women's rights to abortion. While there, they encountered Nathan Phillips, an Omaha Tribe elder who was participating in the Indigenous Peoples March.
In a video posted to Instagram, the boys could be seen surrounding Phillips as he led a chant, with one pupil in particular - Nick Sandmann - standing right in front of the elder while he tried to lead a procession.
Accounts on what actually happened during the encounter differed wildly according to each side of the story. Phillips believed that he was in danger when the boys surrounded him, telling CNN:
"When I was there and I was standing there and I seen that group of people in front of me and I seen the angry faces and all of that, I realised I had put myself in a really dangerous situation. Here's a group of people who were angry at somebody else and I put myself in front of that, and all of a sudden, I'm the one whose all that anger and all that wanting to have the freedom to just rip me apart, that was scary...
"They were there looking for trouble, looking for something."
Sandmann, meanwhile, insisted that he had not instigated any trouble, and instead was an innocent bystander.
"The protestor everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd, which parted for him," he said.
"I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face.
"I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation ... I never felt like I was blocking the Native American protestor. He did not make any attempt to go around me. It was clear to me that he had singled me out for a confrontation, although I am not sure why."
Still, a large group on social media believed the students should be punished for their actions, prompting the Diocese of Covington to open an investigation into the matter.
Now, after reviewing more than 50 hours of internet activity, as well as conducting interviews with 43 students and 16 chaperones, an external company called Greater Cincinnati Investigation has concluded that the boys involved did not do anything wrong.
According to the report, the students were not "offensive or racist", and will not be suspended or expelled from Covington because of their actions.
In a statement on the diocese website, Bishop Roger Joseph Foys said "that taking everything into account, our students were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening. Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory."
Crucially, however, the investigating body failed to interview two people: Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips. They were also unable to contact anyone from the Black Hebrew Israelites, the group that the Covington students insist stirred up trouble in the first place.
The company says that it will "not make any comments on [the] investigation."