Last week, a photo surfaced on Snapchat showing six Desert Vista High School students in Arizona attempting to spell out a racial slur with their T-shirts. Heated protests at the school followed, and a petition is currently calling for the six students in the picture to be expelled and for principal Christine Barela to resign.
In the photo, six white female students arranged themselves to spell out the N-word, substituting the Gs for asterisks after posing, as a larger group, in shirts saying "BEST*YOU'VE*EVER*SEEN*CLASS*OF*2016."
The school is located in an affluent area of Phoenix and the student population is 66% white and only 7% black, according to U.S. News and World Report, making the school less diverse than others in Phoenix.
So far, only one of the students in the photo, Rachel Steigerwald, has apologized publicly. "I have come here to say that I know people have been offended from what I did, and I’ve come here to say I am incredibly, incredibly sorry. I have love for everyone in my heart. I am not a racist, and I am asking everyone for forgiveness," she said before a small group of protestors [in front of the school organized by Rev. Jarrett Maupin.
The apology was met with mixed reactions by the protestors and she soon left the scene. Maupin spoke to AZCentral.com afterward saying, "Intelligent people will accept the apology…and understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean that it’s all better."
The Change.org petition was started by Bri Hardy shortly after the photo surfaced Friday and has so far received over 43,000 signatures. The letter attached to the petition, addressed to both Dr. Kevin J. Mendivil, Associate Superintendant of Tempe Union High School District, and the Human Resources Department at the Arizona Department of Education says:
We demand the resignation of the school's principal, Christine Barela, immediately for deeming this 5-day vacation from school an acceptable punishment. The six girls in question need to be expelled from the high school and its district to understand the gravity of their actions to the fullest. These expressions of racism will not be tolerated any longer.
According to AZCentral.com, school officials have not yet decided on any punishment.
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