Arizona students, principal under fire over picture of T-shirts spelling out racial slur

Students and the principal of a suburban Phoenix high school are under fire after a photo of students wearing T-shirts spelling out a racial slur went viral.

Tempe Union High School District spokeswoman Jill Hanks said Friday that the discipline process remains ongoing but six girls will be punished in accordance with district policies. Hanks said the Desert Vista High School students were wearing the shirts as part of a larger picture spelling out “BEST*YOU’VE*EVER*SEEN*CLASS*OF*2016" for a yearbook photo.


Hanks said the girls were off on their own when they took a photo and used their shirts to spell out the n-word. Someone shared the photo online, prompting calls to the principal. The Arizona Republic reported the photo was taken on Snapchat, where photos disappear after a certain amount of time.

However, some feel as though a punishment is not harsh enough for the girls and principal Christine Barela. A petition calling for the expulsion of the students and the resignation of Parela has already garnered more than 25,000 signatures.

“The six girls in question need to be expelled from the high school and its district to understand the gravity of their actions to the fullest. These expressions of racism will not be tolerated any longer,” the petition said.

Hanks said officials are "absolutely outraged and disappointed" and the students' actions do not represent the student body.

Phoenix-area civil rights activist the Rev. Jarrett Maupin says he and other activists plan to meet Monday with the district's superintendent.

"The racist images and discriminatory behavior created and exhibited by Desert Vista high school students is shocking, outrageous, and should give everyone cause for concern," Maupin said.

Desert Vista had scheduled a sensitivity workshop Monday that aims to “provides teens and adults with tools to tear down walls of separation, and inspires participants to live, study and work in an encouraging environment of acceptance of love and respect,” according to the school’s website.

The workshop was scheduled prior to the shirt incident.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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