Controversies

High school cancels 'senior auction' over claims of racial insensitivity

John F. Kennedy High School.

John F. Kennedy High School.  (Fox 40)

A Northern California high school canceled a 15-year-old tradition after oppinents claimed it was racially insensitive.

An online petition started by John F. Kennedy High School student Lamari Johnson, 17, compared the school’s annual "senior auction" to slavery.

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Students would voluntarily auction themselves off to do entertaining tasks for others to help raise money for the senior ball, Fox 40 reported.

Johnson took to the Internet to explain that this practice was insensitive and “all-around wrong,” especially during Black History Month.

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She noted in her petition that her “ancestors fought for freedom, fought to not be enslaved, sold and separated from their family,” and that “putting a price to someone’s worth is wrong.”

One of Johnson’s concerns was that students were actively making slave jokes about the auction, saying, “Oh hey look. I just bought two slaves.”   

Principal David Van Natten said that he's ending the tradition in future years after hearing Johnson’s concerns and disapprovals voiced by others, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The cancelation sparked a wave of reactions, some cheering and some slamming the move. In the end, what mattered to her “was seeing how important it is to take a stand for something you believe in, even when people are against you,” she said.

Sacramento City Unified School District spokesperson Alex Barrios told Fox 40, "I think in today's environment where there's a lot of insensitivity towards groups of people we need to be very mindful of that.” 

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