A group of Phoenix, Arizona High Schoolers are facing tremendous backlash after they had the idea to stand together in lettered t-shirts to spell out a racial slur and then took a picture of the “joke.” The six white American girls formed a human collage that spelled out “N-*-*-*-*-R” and are currently undergoing disciplinary action from the school.
Friday was “senior picture day” at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukeethe and more than 700 seniors lined up to take a panoramic class photo. It is a tradition that often sees students wearing shirts that spell out phrases and for one year book photo a large group of students lined up to spell out “Best*You’ve*Ever*Seen*Class*of*2016,” but later it seems that six of the girls had an idea for a “joke” that will surely upend their lives for years to come. The controversial potograph shows six girls together, smiling, arranged so that their gold lettered, black t-shirts – complete with the asterisks in the middle – spell out “N-*-*-*-*-R”, unmistakable for anything but the racial slur. Somehow, the photo found its way onto Instagram.
One twitter user posted a picture showing the original purpose of the letters along with the one spelling “N-*-*-*-*-R” with a comment that surely echoes the thoughts of many, “Just imagining the dialogue they had before taking the photo.”
According to The Root the six girls have only served to heighten racial tensions that were alleged to already be running deep in the school. The site noted that in February of 2014, a black teacher by the name of Dr. Cicely Cobb had filed a federal lawsuit against the Tempe Union High School District and Desert Vista High School in particular. The basis of the lawsuit was the claim that racial discrimination was an active part of the student body and that the administrators had failed to take action when she reported the incidents.
After the photo surfaced online, calls to the principal were soon forthcoming and on Friday spokeswoman for the Tempe Union High School District, Jill Hanks stated that disciplinary action will be taken against the girls, subjected to district policies and the student handbook. It was also advised that they would undergo sensitivity training. Tempe Union Superintendent Kenneth Baca also issued a statement denouncing the actions of the seniors.
“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.”
The blatant use of the racial slur has angered many and the members of the student body at the high school are no different and it seems as if threats against the girls have been made. Daily Mail reported that a heavy police presence was noted on the high school rounds following the uploading of the picture and the Phoenix Police Department confirmed the reason for their presence.
Reports are that a community action officer will be sent to the school in the hopes of monitoring the situation as well as to talk to the girls and their families. Local pastor and civil rights activist, Rev. Jarrett Maupin advised that he and some others will also be meeting with the school’s Superintendent and if they are not satisfied with the extent of the disciplinary actions against the girls that a protest may be organized and charges filed with the U.S. Department of Education.
The Desert Vista Black Student Union also commented on the photo with the racial slur by posting their own photo on Twitter Friday and commenting that the actions of those six students do not reflect the entire student body.
[Photo Courtesy of Twitter]