Students at a Norfolk, Virginia, high school exercised their First Amendment rights on Monday, walking out of the school with protest signs to call attention to a racist tweet sent out by a white school administrator.
The tweet showed a picture of a long line of seven white girls in what appear to be prom dresses, each accompanied by an African-American male date in a tuxedo. It had this caption: “every white girl’s father’s worst nightmare or nah.” It came from an account called @OrNahhTweets and, according to the students, was retweeted by an assistant principal from Booker T. Washington High School, whose student population is predominantly African-American.
Though the retweet had been sent out in June, it was just recently noticed by students—though it has since been taken down and the entire account deleted.
More than a dozen students took matters in their own hands after they said school officials wouldn’t respond to their complaints about the content of the tweet. The students didn’t identify the administrator.
It was part of a growing wave of protests by African-American students seen in districts across the country, from Philadelphia to New York, Chicago to Ferguson, calling attention to such issues as harsh budget cuts, racism and unequal treatment from school officials. Though many commentators are eager to dismiss the current generation of students as self-centered and apathetic, this is yet another example disproving such sentiments.
The action by the Booker T. Washington students was covered by a huge swath of national media, now putting enormous pressure on the school district to do something. In other words, it worked.
“This was the only actual way we could get someone’s attention, was to walk outside. It shouldn’t have come to this, but [the administrator has] avoided all meetings and public speakings and emails, just avoided them all,” student Michael Lemelle told local television station WVEC.
“We don’t want her to be fired, ’cause everybody needs a job,” a female student said. “But yeah, transfer her, punish her, do something to let us know it has not gone on unnoticed.”
Lemelle explained why the content of the tweet would be offensive to him and every other African-American, particularly males.
“Me being a young African-American, I don’t think of myself as anyone’s worst nightmare,” Lemelle explained.
District officials in Norfolk told the local television station that they would have no comment on the student complaints because it is a personnel matter.