Police in Savage, Minnesota, are investigating a racist video shared widely on social media where a young girl is seen spewing hateful, racist slurs toward a Black high school student, encouraging her to take her own life.
Nya Sigin, a Black student at Prior Lake High School, told CNN that she was “shocked” by the video, which she believes targets her.
“I really couldn’t comprehend what I was listening to, it was really just a wave of different emotions. I was angry, I was disgusted, I was sad, I was confused,” the 14-year-old said, adding that she’s known the girl in the video since elementary school – “basically, my entire life.”
In the 57-second clip, a girl says to the camera, “You can f**king rot in hell…no one likes N***ers … f**king kill yourself right this time.” Another girl is heard in the background of the video – who, like the teenager on camera, alternates between vitriol and laughter throughout.
The investigation in Minnesota comes as a Utah school district faces scrutiny following the suicide death earlier this month of 10-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, a Black and autistic student. That tragedy happened just weeks after the Justice Department publicly detailed a disturbing pattern where Black and Asian American students at the Davis School District in Farmington, Utah, were harassed for years, and officials deliberately ignored complaints from parents and students. The DOJ detailed the pattern in a report and settlement agreement released in October.
Nya said she believes the video targeting her was originally posted on social media in September but a student at her high school shared the video with her last Monday.
That night, Nya’s older sister Elizabeth – a senior at Prior Lake High School – posted the video with her sister’s permission on her own Snapchat story to expose the hate her sister was receiving. “I received many messages from everybody asking me to send them the video,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth said multiple students from Prior Lake High School and from other schools used Prior Lake High School’s anonymous tip line to complain about the existence of the video.
“It was late Monday evening when I was advised of a horrific, hateful, racist video that was posted on social media platform,” Savage Police Chief Rodney Seurer said at a news conference Thursday. “This is not tolerated here.”
“Once the video was brought to our attention, we immediately launched an investigation into the students involved, and we will take swift and appropriate action,” Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools (PLSAS) Superintendent Teri Staloch, said in a letter to staff and families on November 9.
Nya said the girls in the video also targeted her struggle with mental health.
“They were always kind of hateful towards me … they would always bring up, like, my mental health issues, like my personal issues,” Nya said.
Nya’s father, Taban Sigin, said his daughter has dealt with mental health issues in the past and he’s worried about her saying she’s struggled with anxiety and depression. The teen shared that she was hospitalized in May after attempting to end her own life.
“I had returned to school and I had told a couple of my close friends about it,” the soft-spoken teen said, adding that the information made its way to the girls seen and heard in the racist video and a few of their friends.
“It’s still early on in the investigation so really can’t comment on what possible charges … We’re looking at all aspects, wherever our investigation will take us,” Seurer, the police chief, said when asked if a Minnesota law that forbids individuals from advising, encouraging or assisting others to kill themselves applies in this case.
Nya said she wants to see action and justice from school and government officials.
“Minnesota has made the national news several times for racial ignorance during the past two most critical years this world has ever experienced,” Minneapolis’ NAACP Secretary Brooke Roper said in a statement to CNN.
The May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a now-former Minneapolis police officer became a global rallying cry for racial justice.
“The Minneapolis NAACP is dedicated to protecting and seeking justice for Nya and all Black students. We demand that the Prior Lake-Savage Area School district be transparent throughout this investigation and stand on its commitment to implementing racial equity within its practices to ensure that the 4.3% of Black students enrolled in their school district are heard, protected, validated, and equipped with equitable resources and REAL change,” Roper said.
Prior Lake High School students were released from classes at around 12:45 p.m. Thursday after school officials heard of a planned protest outside of the school in response to the racist video.
“I just want people to know that I’m so beyond thankful for all the support,” Nya said. “It just makes me feel so loved and supported knowing that there are other people out there that have my back.”
Asked what words she has for other students or children experiencing racism and bullying, Nya said, “I would tell other girls, other students, or just people that are going through stuff like this, that it gets better.”
“You don’t have to keep going through this. It’s all temporary, there’s changes to be made,” she said. “My best advice is just to stay strong throughout it all and remember that you have so many support systems and so many people that love you.”
To get help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a crisis text line. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.
CNN’s Laura Studley and Maya Brown contributed to this report