A photo of six white Alabama high school students with their boots pressed into the back of a Black student lying face-down on the ground has sparked outrage across the community.
The students, who attend Moody High School in Birmingham, said the picture was meant to be a joke, but folks aren’t laughing. The students were reportedly participating in a “spirit activity” ahead of Friday’s football game and had dressed up for “redneck day,” Teen Vogue reported.
“We got us one,” they captioned the photo, posing alongside one another in stereotypical hillbilly attire. The African-American student, Nick Fuller, is seen lying on his stomach as his friends step on him.
“We have confirmed that all students involved are friends and participated voluntarily in creating the picture, which they say was intended to be a ‘joke’,” Principal Christopher Walters said in a statement. “The picture is offensive and unacceptable, and it does not reflect the values of our school, our students, or our community.”
The students have since apologized for the photo, though they say they believe it was blown “out of proportion.”
“If I could go back, I wouldn’t have took the picture,” Austin Glass, one of the students pictured in the photo, told CBS 42. “I probably wouldn’t have even dressed up for that day.” Glass’ mother, Jennifer Kellum, told the station the boys were actually “making fun of racist people.”
In an interview with Al.com, Walters explained that the photo was taken during a theme day where students in each grade could dress up as one of four destinations: Dallas, Hawaii, Hollywood, and New Orleans.
The students “clearly made poor decisions,” the principal said of the offensive photo, adding that appropriate disciplinary action would be taken.
“At Moody High School, we will continue to emphasize our commitment that all students be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion so that all students feel welcome and gain the knowledge necessary to become college and career ready and to be good citizens in our community,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Fuller, the African-American student, said he never intended to offend anyone.
“I’m thinking about it now, but I didn’t think about it when we first took the photos,” he told CBS 42. “I’d still like to say sorry again for anyone I offended.”
Watch more in the clip below.