LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — In reaction to a photo circulating on social media of a student holding a racist promposal sign, Vandegrift High School’s principal sent a letter home to families and said the school is investigating.
In the photo, a student held a paper sign with the words “If I was black, I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white so I’m picking U 4 prom?” Principal Charlie Little confirmed the boy is a Vandegrift High School student.
“There is absolutely nothing humorous about slavery, and its use in this context goes against the values and ethical principles we teach,” Little wrote. He added the student may have intended the post on Snapchat to be a “humorous reenactment of a 2018 meme that garnered national attention.” In that case, the Florida high school student posted a photo of himself holding a sign with the same wording. He faced school discipline and did not attend prom, NBC News reported.
Little said the Vandegrift High School student “did not direct this unacceptable message at a particular individual with the intent to harass, bully or discriminate.” However, the school is reviewing the Student Code of Conduct to determine appropriate discipline. Little also asked that the student’s privacy be respected, and urged parents to discuss “responsible digital citizenship and respect for others” with their students.
Read Principal Little’s full letter below:
Good afternoon Vandegrift High School families,
We strive to make VHS a welcoming, inclusive environment for all. A big part of that endeavor is educating our students about cultural awareness and sensitivity. In the case of social media, we have a process to investigate, assess and respond to social media posts that may disrupt the school environment.
Students alerted us about a current VHS student posting a “slavery pun” on Snapchat as part of his prom proposal. We immediately began an investigation to determine the facts and impact of this incident.
We do not tolerate or permit discrimination or hate speech of any kind at Vandegrift. A preliminary investigation suggests the student intended the posting to be a humorous reenactment of a 2018 meme that garnered national attention. There is absolutely nothing humorous about slavery, and its use in this context goes against the values and ethical principles we teach.
While inappropriate and disturbing, the student did not direct this unacceptable message at a particular individual with the intent to harass, bully or discriminate. Despite its intent, we will continue to address the extensive concern this post caused our students, teachers, staff and families who take pride in the inclusive culture of our campus.
We are working within our Student Code of Conduct to apply appropriate discipline with the individual student. We ask that the privacy of this student be respected during this process. Please take this opportunity to discuss with your student(s) the importance of responsible digital citizenship and respect for others.
If your student has additional concerns or has experienced any discrimination resulting from this post, please refer them to our administrative team or their school counselor so we can provide the appropriate support.
I am extremely grateful for the individuals who were proactive and shared this concern with us so we could promptly investigate the issue and involve the appropriate authorities. Thank you for your continued support of Vandegrift High School.
KXAN spoke with one junior at the high school, along with her mother who say things need to change.
“It really just made me mad,” explained Zipporah Robinson, 17, when she saw the Snapchat post Monday morning. “I was just appalled. It really humiliated me and it made me sad.”
The junior says she believes racism has recently become a larger issue at the school and that this incident isn’t necessarily isolated.
“My junior year, it was kind of weird because all of a sudden people started talking out of turn and being racist for no reason and I just didn’t understand it,” she said.
The student’s mother, Cara Robinson-Louie, told KXAN she too was hurt and disappointed by the situation.
“As a parent, it’s 2019. We need to have an open dialogue. We have to have an open dialogue now. It’s needed,” Robinson-Louie said. “I think a lot of people are scared to have the conversation, but the conversation – it’s time. You can’t hide behind racism. It is present and instead of going forward, we’re going backwards. It is a harsh reality, unfortunately.”
The mother says her family moved to Austin from Mississippi about two years ago.
“We hear the headlines, we see it on the news, but to actually experience it up the street, in your own backyard, it’s disheartening,” she added.
Robinson-Louie says she’s already spoken with the administration about the possibility of setting up some kind of diversity program — comprised of students and parents — so that everyone can have their voices heard on-campus.
“People will always remember the way you make them feel. That’s true. This situation makes us feel hurt and disappointed,” she said.