Desert Vista High School students dressed up for senior group pictures wearing T-shirts that spelled out the racial slur “n****r.” The six seniors at the Ahwatukee, Arizona, high school were all grins when posing in the black shirts with gold letters. The image has gone viral on social media and has sparked not only nationwide headlines but death threats to the unnamed young women.
The six Desert Vista High School seniors were suspended after senior pictures day when a group of students wore shirts that spelled out, “Best You’ve Ever Seen Class of 2016,” according to the Phoenix New Times. Ahwatukee is a part of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. A scrambling of the letters of the “best class” phrase by the girls likely garnered far more attention that they either expected or desired. The names of the girls who wore the shirts have not been released by the school.
— #DigitalKingpins (@DigitalKingpins) January 24, 2016
While the six seniors girls who wore the T-shirts that spelled out the racial slur are said to have been suspended from Desert Vista High School for five days, the Arizona district has not released details about the specifics of the disciplinary action taken against the students.
“The event that took place today at Desert Vista will not be tolerated. It is unacceptable for any racial slur to be used regardless of intent. We need to understand that words matter. I can assure you the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken,” Tempe Union School District Superintendent Kenneth Baca said.
School principal Christine Barela penned a letter to high school parents to make it “crystal clear” that stunts like the one the six senior girls pulled are not acceptable in the district. Barela also stated that the actions of the six senior girls do not represent who DVHS is as a campus.
Some in the community are pushing administrators at the Arizona district to levy a harsher punishment against the teenagers. A Change.org petition has gone so far as to urge the expulsion of the six seniors who spelled out the N-word on their shirts, deeming it a “blatant expression of racism and ignorance.”
happy fall from desert vista high school (in december) pic.twitter.com/1LSqVIyivR
— amanda wade (@amandawadeyy) December 14, 2015
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio took to Facebook to share his thoughts about the actions of the six Desert Vista High School seniors and the serious threats that have occurred after their photo went viral. DiCiccio stated that he had spoken with local law enforcement officers about the threats uttered against the young women.
From “BEST*YOU’VE*EVER*SEEN*CLASS*OF*2016” these girls thought spelling the N word was funny. Now they’re suspended. pic.twitter.com/MbOut2Hhzl
— Aaron Paul Composer (@ThisIsAaronPaul) January 24, 2016
“The threats against these young girls is unacceptable. They made a bad mistake as many teenagers do in life. But, any threats against these young women is going to be taken very seriously,” Councilman DiCiccio added. “People just need to knock off the threats and leave this to school officials and their parents. Period.”
A “community action officer” will be sent to the high school to speak with the girls in the photo and to “monitor the situation.” Police officers were also dispatched to the Phoenix area school on Friday to keep the peace as the photo garnered viral status and intense backlash began. Some students have reportedly threatened to rebel if the six senior girls who wore the N-word shirts are not subjected to more stringent punishment. Freedom of speech rights do apply to minors, but limits have been placed on their First Amendment rights, especially when words or acts of expression have occurred on school grounds.
What do you think about the Desert Vista High School senior girls spelling out the N-word with their shirts? Does the punishment fit the crime?
[Image via Shutterstock.com]