Community members in Palm City, Florida expressed their anger at a school board meeting on Tuesday night after a photo of six middle school students each holding up a letter to spell out a racial slur circulated on social media.
Earlier Tuesday, Martin County School District Superintendent John D. Millay confirmed the offending photo was genuine.
In the photo, each of the students is holding a 2-foot-tall letter. A letter seems to be designed like a watermelon. Another is dark red.
At the school board meeting, a woman who said she has grandchildren at the school, Hidden Oaks Middle, said the students involved “should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”.
“The R at the end is blood. How do I know these kids weren’t sitting at home thinking about coming to school with a mass murder on these kids,” she said .
She turned her attention to the school board.
“You’re all going to sweep it under the rug. It’s not happening on my watch,” she said. “You’re going to hear it until you get results. You’re sitting in those seats too comfy for me.”
Another woman noted that the suspect in last weekend’s fatal shooting that targeted black people in Buffalo, New York, made a threat to her high school.
“Racism is not a mental problem. Keep that in mind, racism is something that is taught, it is ingrained in a person,” she told the board.
Millay said in his initial statement that the district has launched an investigation into “this disgraceful incident.”
On Thursday, Millay said the district had completed its investigation and determined that no staff member was involved in the photo, although the letters were written in class.
Students involved will be disciplined according to the district’s code of conduct. Millay said federal and state law prevented him from identifying any of the students or disclosing the discipline they would receive.
“We are deeply aware of the hurt and pain this photograph has caused our community, especially our Black American residents and students. As we have said previously, this incident is in complete opposition to our values and the ideals that we instill in our students,” Milay said.