An unvetted “iReport” on CNN has drawn criticism toward a Waverly, New York, high school where white students donned blackface for a skit spoofing the Chris Brown-Rihanna domestic violence incident from 2009.
The report, posted by Matthew Dishler on Monday, came with a photo of three unidentified Waverly High School students — two male students and one female student — who appeared in the skit as part of the “Mr. Waverly” competition pep rally.
In the photo, one of the two boys, holding an umbrella (an apparent reference to the Rihanna song “Umbrella”) is being held back by the other one while the girl lays cowering on the ground.
The report is listed as “not vetted for CNN.” Neither Dishler nor iReport producer Daphne Sashin responded to interview requests from The Raw Story Tuesday morning, but Dishler, an alumnus of the school, said on his Facebook page Monday that he was “coming under fire” for posting the piece.
“Let me be clear: Domestic violence is not a joke for school. Ever,” he said. “Do they do it on TV? Yes. Know what else they do on TV? Eat maggots, talk openly about their sex lives, use profane language, show drinking, smoking, a litany of other offenses. If your justification for why it wasn’t wrong is because it is ‘on TV’ or is a personal attack against me, you need to grow up. And I am not trying to target the children. The fact that at 24 years old I have enough sense to know that that is not a proper thing to do in a school and administrators let this go is the problem. Of course the kids think it is ok. The ones who should be telling them it is not aren’t doing anything about it.”
The report’s increased visibility — it has been featured on Buzzfeed, Jezebel, and The Grio, among other popular sites — has led to a debate on social media between people outraged by the skit and people saying they saw nothing wrong with it.
“Look, it was a stupid skit and it could be taken offensively,” one supporter said on the original post’s comment thread. “I know they should have chosen something else. However, do you REALLY think its appropriate to post it on this site! C’mon, you don’t have to give us a bad rep or blame it on the whole pep rally! Now thanks to this we might not even have another Mr. Waverly Contest! Screw you, this article, and IReport!”
Dishler said in his report he was not at the event but confirmed the skit with friends and took the photo from a current student’s Facebook page.
“In this skit they would display acts of domestic violence as satire to an audience that included not only students but parents, faculty, and various members of the media and community leaders,” he said. “None of them stopped the skit.”
According to The Huffington Post, the 2010 Census report showed Waverly’s population is 97 percent white.
The Towanda Daily Review reported that Waverly Central School District Superintendent Joseph Yelich said in a statement he planned to meet with school officials Tuesday regarding the incident, and with student groups and their advisors “in the near future.”
Watch WENY-TV’s report on the incident, aired Tuesday, below.