There is a photo of six teenage girls smiling from ear to ear and posing in black tshirts spelling out the word “Ni**er” in gold lettering circulating the internet. Apparently, members of Desert Vista High School’s senior class took a photo for the yearbook earlier that day spelling out “Best*You’ve*Ever*Seen*Class*Of*2016”. Six of them conjured up the bright idea to get together and spell out the N word and the photo quickly found its way to Instagram, going viral even faster. We can’t even imagine what the dialogue before this photo was taken consisted of but we do know they are currently facing the wrath of understandably angry strangers, fellow students, parents and school officials.
There are unconfirmed reports that the girls have been suspended for five days which seems like a soft slap on the wrist – a punishment way too lenient for an action this ignorant. A Change.org petition began circulating on Friday calling for the students’ expulsion as well as the firing of the school’s principal. ABC15 in Phoenix reports that parents began contacting the school on Friday and the representative from the district weighed in as well as the superintendent.
“Words cannot express the outrage,” Jill Hanks from the Tempe Union High School District said. “What were they thinking? We had some students that made a really bad decision this morning.”
District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Baca added, “It is unacceptable for any racial slur to be used regardless of intent. We need to understand that words matter.”
According to ABC15, Desert Vista Principal Dr. Christine Barela sent out a letter to parents on Friday, which read in part: We want to let you know we share your outrage and disappointment over the actions of a handful of our students today. We want to make it crystal clear those actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Desert Vista. Those actions do not represent who we are as a campus. We can assure you we will discipline these students in accordance with district policy and our student handbook. While we don’t discuss individual discipline, we can tell you that in addition, the obvious need for sensitivity training will be addressed.
It should be noted that in February 2014, a black teacher, Dr. Cicely Cobb, (http://www.abc15.com/news/region-phoenix-metro/ahwatukee/desert-vista-high-school-teacher-files-lawsuit-claiming-racial-discrimination-in-classroom) filed a federal lawsuit against Desert Vista High School and the Tempe Union High School District, making allegations of racial discrimination by students and a lack of action by administrators when she reported such incidents.
Presently, News12 reports that a local pastor and civil rights activist, Rev. Jarrett Maupin, said in a news release that he and others are going to meet with Superintendent Baca to discuss the incident on Monday.
Maupin said in the statement that the image should “give everyone a cause for concern.” The release also promised that if the parents and students aren’t satisfied with the school’s and district’s response, they may protest and file charges with the U.S. Department of Education.
The Desert Vista Black Student Union posted its own photo on Twitter on Friday with the comment, “The incident that occurred today at Desert Vista High School does not reflect the beliefs of the student body!”
What do you think the proper punishment should be for these six?