IDAHO FALLS — Parents are worried, students are speechless and the superintendent has issued a letter after a racist comment was used on a poster invitation for a school dance.
The poster in question said, “If I was black, I’d be picking cotton…but I’m white so I’m picking you!”
It was reportedly written by a female student who asked a male student to the Sweetheart Ball next month at Thunder Ridge High School. Photos of the poster quickly made the rounds on social media and on Tuesday, Bonneville Joint School District 93 Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme sent a letter to families and employees addressing the issue.
“As Superintendent, I feel a personal responsibility to our students, our staff, and our families who have been offended and hurt by this poster. While I will never be able to personally understand how it feels to be a target of racist and bigoted language, I recognize how traumatic such language must be,” Woolstenhulme wrote. “I am deeply sorry that such an awful remark was connected to our schools.”
Woolstenhulme added he was “devastated” that this act made its way into the district after similar incidents have been reported across the country over the past few years.
In 2019, according to CNN, a student at an Ohio high school apologized for a racist promposal sign that got him banned from the dance. He used the same phrase.
Last year, according to FOX 4, a Kansas City-area school district had the same situation happen with a homecoming poster that was deemed offensive.
Thunder Ridge High School students have been sharing the poster on social media with comments such as, “Racism still alive,” “Do better people” and “I don’t understand what is wrong with people. Leaves me without words for people like this.”
“At first, I was just disappointed and a little sickened by it,” Tao Johnson, a senior at Thunder Ridge High School, told EastIdahoNews.com. “That’s just not the type of stuff you want to see. As you go forward as a society, and hopefully we grow and move on from things, that’s just stuff you don’t want to see out there.”
Johnson is African American and Native American. He said the male student who received the poster is white and even though the words are offensive, Johnson holds no animosity toward the girl who made it.
“At no point at all throughout this whole thing did I ever hold any hatred towards her or the guy she asked,” said Johnson. “I hope we can just learn from this and grow our conversations so that hopefully it doesn’t happen in the future.”
Yvette Huerta has two children who go to District 93 schools. She told EastIdahoNews.com the poster makes her feel a need to worry about her kids.
“I pray my kids NEVER have to deal with something like this,” Huerta said.
Woolstenhulme said he wanted to assure students, families, and staff that the school district does not condone or permit racism, intolerance, or discrimination in any form.
“Whenever such language is used, we have a moral obligation to confront it. We will respond to this situation–and any other expressions of racist or bigoted language–with the appropriate and necessary actions to correct it,” he said.
Woolstenhulme wrote that when school administrators learned about the poster, they addressed the situation with the student who made it and her parents. A district spokesman told EastIdahoNews.com he couldn’t comment on what disciplinary action was taken due to student privacy.
“While there is no question that this poster was thoughtless and hurtful, I hope that we will all try to be as forgiving of others’ mistakes as we hope others will be of our own,” Woolstenhulme said. “As a district, we promise that every student in our schools will feel safe, connected, and cared for; I am so sorry that this incident broke that promise.”