Officials at Garden Grove Unified say two Bolsa Grande High students engaged in “profane, disruptive, disrespectful and hostile words and actions” against Vietnamese American students.

By ROXANA KOPETMAN | | Orange County Register, March 13, 2020 at 11:42 a.m.

Two Garden Grove high school students videotaped themselves mocking Asian American students – shouting “coronavirus” during a school cultural assembly and harassing Vietnamese American classmates.

After one of the students posted their video on YouTube, where it went viral, they were blasted by other students and educators. Officials with Garden Grove Unified School District termed the actions depicted on the video as “unacceptable.” Others described them as insensitive and racist.

The district, in an unsigned statement issued March 8, said it has opened an investigation into what officials termed “profane, disruptive, disrespectful and hostile words and actions” of the two teenage girls at Bolsa Grand High School, where 60% of the students are of Vietnamese descent. The district has not publicly identified the students by name.

Short video clips from the original account, which has since been shut down, have circulated on social media, garnering thousands of comments in English and Vietnamese.

The girls, who have been described as Latinas, are seen and heard laughing as one screams out “coronavirus” while students wearing Vietnamese outfits appear during an International Week assembly held on campus Friday, March 6. In another clip, one of the girls picks up a traditional large Asian-style hat, puts it on, dances while laughing, then throws it on the ground.

And in a video clip that drew the attention of Garden Grove police, one of the girls briefly touches or hits the face of an Asian student wearing a face mask after telling her “Hey, b—.”  Both girls erupt in laughter as the Asian student turns her face away, saying “no, thank you.”

Garden Grove Unified officials said they received numerous reports and copies of the video that shows the two Bolsa Grande students “mocking and harassing many students and adults and specifically mocking /harassing Vietnamese students in an assembly and on the campus.”

“The behaviors shown in the video are unacceptable and will not be tolerated by Bolsa Grande or (Garden Grove Unified,)” district officials wrote. “Disruptive and bias/hate speech and actions have no place in our schools.”

One Bolsa Grande High alumna, Teriann Nguyen, re-posted the video clips in a widely shared Facebook post, saying she was angry to see the girls “mock and disrespect my culture and harassing another student because she was wearing a face mask.”

The district also said Bolsa Grande Principal Tracy Conway sent a message to students, parents and staff over the weekend, assuring them that the video “does not portray the values of the diverse school and that the imaging presented is inappropriate and unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We deeply apologize for the pain this has caused our community.”

Students who engage in such behaviors, “including hate/bias speech or activities” will face discliplinary action, said district spokeswoman Abby Broyles, who added that any details of that discipline is confidential.

Many in the community remain outraged. As of Wednesday, an online petition calling for the girls’ expulsion had been signed by 41,000 people.

Garden Grove police interviewed the girls on Monday and determined no crime was committed, said Lt. Richard Burillo. The face mask-wearing student who was touched by one of the girls told police she didn’t believe she was deliberately hit and that she didn’t want to press charges, Burillo added.

“It was more of a school conduct issue and should be handled internally by the school district,” Burillo said.

In addition to contacting calling Garden Grove police, district officials also reached out to the non-profit OC Human Relations agency and the Orange County Human Relations Commission.

The non-profit agency, which works with the county, has been working with Garden Grove Unified in the wake of different videos, released in 2019, that showed members of the Pacifica High boys water polo team engaging in anti-Semitic activities. One video showed students singing a Nazi marching song while extending their arms in a Hitler salute.

Since that incident, the OC Human Relations has offered training to student leaders across the district, and held community meetings, as part of a project to help promote a welcoming environment, said Alison Edwards, the agency’s chief executive officer.

“We’re living in contentious times,” Edwards said. “The more we can all do to promote an Orange County where everyone feels safe, valued and included is some of the most important work we can do right now.”

Last week’s incidents, she said, mean “more engagement and education” is needed for young people to “have an understanding of human dignity and how we treat other cultures.”

The non-profit is working with a district task force to address school-based hate and bias. Unfortunately, the most recent task-force meeting was cancelled, due to concerns over the Caronvirus.

See OC Human Relations Statement on Hate & Discrimination Resulting From COVID-19