Sangeetha Rayapati, currently President of the Moline-Coal Valley School Board and Moline Mayor elect, issued a statement Friday regarding the video of a football player being hazed.
"As out-going President of the Moline-Coal Valley School Board and Mayor-Elect of Moline, I want to address the incident many in our community observed online Friday night, involving members of our high school football team. As a human, I’m frustrated, dismayed, and appalled—among many other emotions. As a community leader and elected official, I know I, myself and fellow leaders have a responsibility to hold individuals involved in this incident accountable and intend to do just that.
"We must choose wisely, how we treat each other. We must choose kindness, understanding and respect, and we have a duty as parents, role models and leaders to model this respect to each other each and every day. We must hold ourselves accountable for this incident occurring in our community and educate our children that this behavior is unacceptable. Because these are all of our children--those who have done egregious things and those who have had a terrible thing done to them. No one has a right to dehumanize their classmate or teammate.
"I am a person of color. I know what it means to be the only person in the room like yourself. I know what it means to be misunderstood. Our children deserve, especially in a school or school activity, to be understood and treated with respect and our entire community needs to be there for that. Our entire community has a responsibility to decide what behavior we will not accept.
"I speak from the heart when I say we have a responsibility to teach them a better way. It’s awful to know a child was treated that way. It’s awful to know that that child will be marked forever by the incident and the disrespect they received. And it’s awful to know other children would see this as a joke.
"We must let investigations take place according to appropriate protocols to address this behavior, but we can turn toward our neighbors, and show them the good that is in all of us. We can find ways to reassure our children that they don’t have to fear this kind of treatment in Moline. There is no place for hate in Moline, and it is my mission to continue to make Moline a welcoming place for ALL—no matter your age, background, or color of your skin."