Authorities in Traill County are reviewing a five-second video circulating in Hillsboro featuring a Hillsboro High School senior holding a handgun while saying he is “hunting n------s.”
Sheriff Steve Hunt said investigators are in the process of gathering information on the video after concerns about the clip were brought to their attention Tuesday.
“At this point, we are looking into it,” Hunt said. “But aside from that we don’t want to say too much until we know more. We are looking into the source of the video.”
In the video, which was recorded at night, the Hillsboro teen appears holding a handgun while looking in the direction of the person recording the footage.
“I am hunting n------s,” the teen can be heard saying before pretending to fire the weapon.
Sheriff’s officials remain unsure where or when the video was recorded, according to Hunt.
Karl Benson of Minneapolis, who is Black, had the video sent to him by his daughter, who attends Hillsboro High School, on Monday night.
Benson forwarded the clip to members of the Hillsboro School Board as well as High School Principal Terry Baesler after being told the teen holding the handgun in the video was a classmate of Benson’s daughter
“Needless to say, I’m not happy,” Benson said in a message to Baesler on Monday night.
One of the Hillsboro School Board members contacted by Benson on Monday included board member Mary Mattson.
Benson emailed the video to the Hillsboro Banner on Tuesday along with a text of an iPhone message he received from Mattson in which he asked her if the person holding the gun in the video was her son.
Mattson responded that she appreciated having the video brought to her attention.
“I very much appreciate you making me aware of this. We absolutely do not tolerate this behavior at our house in any way,” she wrote in her response to Benson.
“It is inexcusable. My husband and I have discussed and dealt with him. It will not be an issue going forward.”
Benson told the Banner that he wasn’t satisfied with the responses he received from school officials and added that his daughter seemed upset by the video Monday night.
“(Mattson) basically said ‘We got it. Sorry. It won’t happen again,’” he said. “And I am like, yeah, that doesn’t work. There’s no accountability on his part.
“Given the climate we are living in, it doesn’t make me feel better saying they are handling it as a family.”
Benson traveled from Minneapolis to Hillsboro on Tuesday to file a complaint with authorities.
Living more than 250 miles away from his daughter, Benson said he wanted to visit Hillsboro to ensure that she wasn’t in any danger in school.
“From my perspective, I don’t necessarily feel she’s safe,” said Benson, adding that it would be nearly impossible for his daughter to avoid a classmate in a relatively small school like Hillsboro.
“You’re going to see him in the hallway. They’re in the same class,” Benson said.
Reached late Tuesday morning, Hillsboro Public Schools Superintendent Paula Suda said she became aware of the video after being sent the clip by a parent Monday.
She classified the video as “a very serious matter,” but pointed out that since the recording didn’t take place on school property, administrators forwarded the video to the Traill County Sheriff’s Office.
“We don’t know when the the video was taken (or) where it was taken. It wasn’t on school grounds at all. That’s all we know,” Suda said.
“We will look at local law enforcement to take care of all that and if they need more information we will definitely cooperate,” she said.
Suda said school officials are limited in the information they can share with the public about individual students due to data privacy laws.
Since the video was forwarded to law enforcement, school administrators do not plan to investigate the video further, Suda said.
Addressing a question about what would prompt school officials to launch an investigation, Suda listed a learning disruption as one scenario.
“If it would impede the learning of other students, absolutely” an investigation would be conducted, she said. “If it was in a disruption in school and classes, then absolutely.”
Suda said she didn’t believe student safety was in jeopardy due to the content in the video.
“I feel students would come visit with us if they feel threatened and we have not had that happen,” she said. “Our principal has a good relationship (with students) where those discussions can take place.”
Benson said he’d prefer that the teen in the video be removed from the classroom setting, although he stopped short of requesting an outright expulsion.
Considering the heightened sensitivity of race relations in the nation – and the fact Hillsboro Public Schools has 10 Black children in grades K-12 – Benson said he hoped the Hillsboro community would be critical of the language used in the video.
“Personally, as a Black man, for my daughter to walk around with kids who are saying words like that, that’s bad,” Benson said.
“Historically, that’s bad. Clearly, this kid doesn’t understand the history of the word he’s using.”
Messages sent by the Banner to Mattson and other members of the Hillsboro School Board requesting comment for this article were not returned by the time the Banner went to press Thursday afternoon.