A senior photo showing New Jersey high school students posing to spell out a racial slur has sparked widespread controversy.
The photo, posted to social media on Friday, Oct. 13, shows 16 Jackson Liberty High School students spelling out “We’re All N—–s” using orange-colored, lettered t-shirts, the Asbury Park Press reported. Two students have paw prints on their shirts in place of the double g’s used to spell the slur toward African-Americans.
The image angered many in the community, with fellow students and parents saying they were deeply offended. On Monday, Oct. 16, a group of students locked arms in protest to demand that the school take action against the students who posed for the photo.
“We need some type of response of from the administration,” parent Emanuewell Clay told local station News 12 New Jersey. “We need it addressed that the decisions that you make have repercussions that can really affect others.”
In a letter sent to parents, Jackson Liberty High principal Maureen Butler insisted there was no “malice or disrespect in the hearts of any of the students involved,” adding that conversations would be had in the coming weeks about how words could be perceived and have consequences.
“I know this kind of letter with limited information can be frustrating, but I hope you can appreciate our need to keep student matters out of public discussion,” Butler wrote. “I did want you to know that we remain confident that the spirit of unity, tolerance and respect among our Liberty Lion family is alive and well.”
A Jackson Liberty senior who posed for the photo alongside other students on Friday told the Asbury Park Press he and his classmates were sorry that people were offended by the picture.
“Basically we are all incredibly sorry,” said the student, who asked to remain anonymous. “We wanted to make a statement in favor of [Black Lives Matter] and other social justice movements. This is certainly not the way we wanted this to be interpreted.”
Students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds were featured in the photo.
So far, there’s no word on how or if the students will be disciplined.