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New Berlin school officials investigate video that shows student using homophobic slur

NEW BERLIN -- A homophobic slur and a controversial outfit inside New Berlin West High School prompted a response from administrators. The incident was recorded using a cellphone, and the video was shared online.

Hayley Triggs

"The people laughing, people just heard that and no one wanted to say anything," said Hayley Triggs, who graduated from New Berlin West High School in 2011.

Triggs said she wasn't happy to hear the news.

"We all know what the word means. We all know it's used to be hateful. You can't just go around saying things like that," Triggs said.

The video, which was posted to social media on Monday, Feb. 4, showed a pair of students at the high school wearing T-shirts with text that read "THERE'S ONLY" along with male and female symbols beneath. One of the students in the video could be heard using a homophobic slur.

"If a trans person saw that in the school, that's invalidating their identity," said Jamie Erdheim, youth advocate at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.

Protecting and educating on identity is the goal at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.

New Berlin West High School

Jamie Erdheim

"Youth don't feel safe if the adults in the room aren't calling that out, and the students are high-fiving, getting away with it -- walking away. That's endorsing it," said Erdheim.

"These kids aren't doing this to make a statement. These kids are doing this because they want to see other kids upset. That's bullying," said Sam Stoiber, former student at New Berlin Eisenhower Middle/High School.

New Berlin West High School

Michael Fesenmaier, the principal of New Berlin West Middle/High School, issued a statement on Tuesday, Feb. 5 condemning the video.

Principal Fessmeier's statement reads as follows:

"This afternoon, we were made aware of a video taken at New Berlin West after school. It appears the video was made today and is already making the rounds on social media.

The language used in the video by the students will not be tolerated in our school. We do not believe the views shared in the video are reflective of our student body as a whole.

We are currently investigating the situation. And while we cannot share any specifics regarding student discipline, please know that we intend to hold the students involved accountable with appropriate consequences."

New Berlin West High School

"I really thought it was going to get better," Triggs said. "I'm almost ashamed to live in New Berlin now."

Superintendent Joe Garza also issued a statement on this matter:

"The language used in the video is not appropriate and will not be condoned in our schools. New Berlin West administrators are investigating the situation, and all those involved will be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions. That said, we do not share student discipline details with the media."

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