A photo of high school students spelling out a racial slur on T-shirts has triggered outrage across social media.
Friday, according to school officials, was “senior picture day” at the Phoenix high school, when more than 700 seniors lined up for an annual panoramic class photo. It is a traditional event and common for students to wear shirts that spell out pre-approved phrases.
However, after the class photo six female students gathered in a corner and lined up next to each other to spell out “NI**ER” with the gold letters across their black shirts. The middle two letters of the word were asterisks, instead of g’s.
The photo went viral on Twitter and Facebook by Friday afternoon, with some calling for the students to be suspended or expelled.
After receiving numerous complaints Tempe Union Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Baca released the following statement:
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.
A letter also was sent home to Desert Vista students from Principal Dr. Christine Barela which read:
Dear Desert Vista Families,
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. As a precaution, Phoenix Police will be increasing security at and around Desert Vista.
There were rumors the six students have been suspended for five days, but school officials will not confirm disciplinary proceedings.
Many on social media however were not satisfied with the disciplinary actions.
DVTMI does not condone the actions and behaviors of these students today. You can share your positive thoughts and photos with us from today
— DVHS Thunder Media (@dvthundermedia) January 22, 2016
these girls got suspended for 5 days when they should’ve been expelled. they go to desert vista high school pic.twitter.com/q3Q5UKmh04
— clarissa (@calerissa) January 22, 2016
Students at Desert Vista High School wore shirts that spelled out NI**ER. Their punishment? A mere 5-day suspension. pic.twitter.com/KSNM3s9sol
— Jam (@jams_aqt) January 22, 2016
Apparently this is only worth 5 days of suspension at Desert Vista high school in Arizona? Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/bUPh77wPsQ
— Douglas Veney (@WhoIsDo) January 22, 2016
According to its website, Desert Vista previously had scheduled a sensitivity workshop for Monday called Challenge Day, a daylong program that “provides teens and adults with tools to tear down the walls of separation, and inspires participants to live, study, and work in an encouraging environment of acceptance, love, and respect.”