Phoenix Students Spell Out Racial Slur On T-Shirts, Leading To Social Media Outrage

Published: Friday, January 22, 2016 - 12:16pm
Updated: Friday, January 22, 2016 - 5:51pm
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(Photo via Twitter)
This photo, taken by a student and widely available on social media on Friday, shows Desert Vista High School seniors after class photo day. KJZZ has obscured the faces of the students.

A photo of Ahwatukee high school seniors spelling out a racial slur on T-shirts has triggered outrage across social media.  

Every year, the more than 700 seniors at Desert Vista High School participate in a panoramic class photo shoot. Students sport shirts with letters spelling out various phrases, all pre-approved by the school. But this year that tradition took a bad turn.

After the class photo — and unbeknownst to administrators — half a dozen female students gathered in a corner and with smiles, lined up next to each other to spell out a racial slur, commonly referred to as the “N-word.” The middle two letters of the word are asterisks, instead of gs. 

The picture quickly went viral on Twitter, with some calling for the students to be suspended or expelled. Many users also called for names and details about the students. 

“I cannot stress enough how upset and absolutely outraged the principal is, the administration is at Desert Vista," said Jill Hanks, a spokesperson for Tempe Union High School District, which runs Desert Vista.

"It is absolutely unacceptable. It will not be tolerated, and we will issue discipline according to our district policies," said Hanks, who would not elaborate on the exact punishment. 

Hanks said the students were not wearing those same T-shirts during the class photo shoot. 

Desert Vista offers a digital citizenship program taught to all incoming freshman that specifically teaches students about how to behave on social media, said Hanks.

She adds that the students did not take the picture themselves and post it on social media.

Tatum Brimley is a senior at Desert Vista and plays on the basketball team there. She said many students are upset to be associated with the offensive photo and its sentiment.

“Everyone is angry and ashamed they go to Desert Vista and graduating with them right now,” said Brimley. She said the high school does have a high percentage of white students and, as an African-American, she sometimes feels “not as accepted.”

“They are going to face the consequences based on what other people think of them,” said Brimley.

There are rumors the students have been suspended for five days, but school officials will not confirm disciplinary proceedings. 

Updated at 12:54 p.m.

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