After watching videos of the students of Covington Catholic High School on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, including one student stripping down shirtless to perform a “sumo” cheer, and others jeering at a Native American elder with whoops and tomahawk chops, people across America are wondering: who taught these boys how to behave?
For those late to this story: The January 18th incident began as a small group of black Hebrew Israelite preachers started trolling the MAGA-hatted Covington Catholic students, who were in D.C. to participate in the March for Life, an anti-abortion rally. Instead of turning the other cheek, the boys responded to the preachers’ insults. Allegedly with the encouragement of a chaperone, they began performing sports jeers, as though they were in the bleachers of their home gym and the Black Israelites were the opposing team. Arguing he was attempting to calm the boys, whose behavior was beginning to resemble a mob, Native American elder Nathan Phillips approached the Covington students, chanting and drumming, accompanied by a small group of others. The Covington boys then turned their jeers toward the Native Americans, adding racist chops to taunts and smirks — footage of which then went viral.
The public behavior by the boys is a far cry from the behavior the school promises parents. A promotional video produced by Covington Catholic, which is located in a suburb of Cincinnati on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, insists the school molds boys into fine Christians, that students are “mannerly” and “polite” and that the school “sets the bar for how young men should be.”
A sample of the promises from the video:
“When you come to Covington Catholic you’re going to be a well-rounded individual. When we get those young boys, I like to say, they turn into a young man by the time they leave here.”
— Robert Rowe, Covington Catholic principal
“If you ask kids who go to public schools, they think that the boys who go to Covington Catholic are at a higher standard. They’re polite. They’re manerly. They’re smart. It sets the bar for how young men should be.”
— Covington Catholic board member Traci Kautzman
“The goal at Covington Catholic is to develop successful, young, Christian men. The track record is pretty remarkable.”
“When you look at the makeup of our young men and the integrity that they have, day in and day out, that we’re producing, I think that separates us from all the other schools”
— Principal Rowe
“We have students who are truly loving and truly caring — truly nurturing — who truly want to make the world a better place.”
— Covington Catholic teacher
This sales-brochure portrait of the school also stands in stark contrast to a different video posted to the school’s YouTube account. The video has been deleted in the days since Covington Catholic became the center of a national media story, but has been republished by the Daily Mail. The footage depicts the Colonel Crazies — the name for the student cheering section at Covington Catholic Colonels sporting events — at a “blackout” game in 2012. Most are simply dressed in black. But a handful of students in the front are wearing blackface.
The same video depicts students, shirtless and in kilts, on a “Braveheart” march. They can also be seen on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) pretending to barf after a cheer called “Roller Coaster.”
One Covington Catholic teacher gives a hint of the school’s culture in the promo video, arguing that Covington Catholic graduates go on to be leaders: “They’re president of their fraternity,” he says.
Nick Sandmann, the student who stood within inches of Phillips’ face with what many interpreted as a menacing smirk, appeared on the Today show Wednesday morning, telling host Savannah Guthrie that he that he was smiling at the man because he “wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry.”
Principal Rowe has promised an independent investigation of the incident. But President Trump has defended the students, tweeting Tuesday: “Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be. They have captivated the attention of the world, and I know they will use it for the good – maybe even to bring people together. It started off unpleasant, but can end in a dream!”
Covington Catholic administration officials could not be reached for comment.