California High School Students Face Disciplinary Action for Racist Slurs in Senior Photos

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A group of at least ten students, who spelled out racial and homophobic slurs on t-shirts, will have disciplinary action taken against them by the school.

The students - who are seniors at Escondido High School in San Diego, California - posed for photos where their t-shirts spelled out the offensive words, which were later shared on social media.

According to BuzzFeed, Cade Pannell, a graduate of the school, saw a video of the students on Snapchat and then shared it on his Instagram page where it went viral.

Once it came to the attention of the school, officials and police investigated what had happened and took the action that they felt was necessary.

The incident is said to have taken place at the annual senior picnic where the students are given t-shirts to spell out pre-approved words.

It has not been made public what type of punishment the students will receive. Principal Adriana Lepe-Ramirez said in a statement via Facebook:

“I want to assure you that actions have been taken and students are receiving consequences,” she wrote.

Some students told BuzzFeed that disciplinary actions include being barred from sports and other school-related organizations; the students will also be barred from walking at graduation.

In an interview with the Free Hugs Project’s Ken Nwadike Jr., one of the students involved said that the group responsible for the offensive photos was “hyping it up, thinking it was going to be so cool and funny,” and added that it was “all the top kids...and people that get scholarships” who were leading the charge and grabbing people who were wearing certain letters to spell out the words.

Being a “top” student and getting good grades or scholarships doesn’t preclude one from thinking or acting on offensive, racist, or homophobic thoughts; and, as Ken pointed out in the interview, people of color continually experience poor treatment. “It hurts people to feel like no matter what we do...there’s always going to be this reminder that groups of people don’t want us here,” he said.

Ken also noted that he “hope[s] that schools will do a better job of really informing young people on the history of that word, to know that it’s not a joke, it’s not something that students in various parts of the country should continue to do.”

In her statement, Dr. Lepe-Ramirez indicated Escondido High School will work on doing so. “Together, we have begun the process of educating all on the implications and power of one’s actions and decisions,” she wrote. “This will be a continuing process and I will provide updates throughout the year.”

The student who spoke with Ken apologized for taking part in the photo. “I want to apologize for people I did hurt with this whole scandal, because that’s not who I am,” she said, before later discussing next steps.

“I am scared to go back to school, but I am going to try to show people that’s not who I really am, because that’s for sure not who I want to be,” she said. “I want to show people that’s not right. I’ve learned from my mistakes.”

Additional information from Teen Vogue and Indy100