High school students have sparked a huge backlash after spelling out anti-gay and racial slurs on their tops.
Senior students at Escondido High School in southern California combined their T-shirts, each of which had a different letter on it, to spell out the words “FAGS” and “N****R.”
The offensive pictures were taken on Thursday (September 27) at the traditional senior barbecue, where pupils are permitted to wear T-shirts with a letter on them so they can spell out words with friends, according to KGTV.
It is understood that although the wording of the official photo must be agreed beforehand, students often get together afterwards to create their own phrases.
The resulting images were posted on social media platforms, prompting understandable outrage.
Former students also voiced their disgust at the pictures, with Cade Pannell saying: “It hurt me personally.
“Whether they thought it was a joke, it’s not. And if you do think it’s a joke, I think that’s very ignorant of you.”
Jovan Pete, who graduated last year, said the pictures didn’t reflect his experience at Escondido.
He added that people not familiar with the school will “just look at that and assume that’s how it is there. Just racist kids there or just obnoxious kids who don’t know right from wrong.”
Pete said this didn’t ring true with his time at the institution.
“I think it’s a great school. The teaching is great, sports are good, I never had problems here,” he said.
The school apologised for the photos, and — like Pete — insisted that they were not representative of Escondido.
“Today, during a senior event on campus approximately 10 students made a poor decision to participate in an activity that is not aligned with Escondido High School’s culture, values or history,” the statement read.
It said that Principal Dr Adriana Lepe-Ramirez had “expressed her deep sadness with this occurrence” and had added: “We are a campus that prides itself on inclusion and embraces diversity.
“We will not tolerate actions that send messages of racism and promote divisiveness. We will work with students, as well as staff, to ensure a respectful and safe environment is maintained throughout our campus.
“We all need to understand the power of our words and actions, and we must take responsibility for the decisions we make each and every day,” she continued.
“At Escondido High School we will continue to work every day to build a culture of family and unity across our community.”
The school reassured the community that the Escondido Police Department was reviewing the incident and that “appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken.”
Speaking to all the school’s students over the intercom on Friday (September 28), Lepe-Ramirez said: “I’d like to address you all and express my sadness and disappointment in the choices that were made during the senior barbecue.
“I understand that the messages that were posted on social media incited anger and frustration, but I want to encourage you all to remember that the only thing that combats hate is love, the only thing that combats divisiveness is unity.”
Homophobic bullying affects queer students all over the US, like nine-year-old Jamel Myles of Denver, Colorado, who died by suicide earlier this year, and teenager Guadalupe Paredes, who is suing Wisconsin’s Kenosha Unified School District because staff were allegedly “indifferent” to his suffering.