Issaquah School District, teen in photo respond to racist photo
Students are planning a walkout on Wednesday at Issaquah High School after a racist social media post involving students circulated on social media.
“I definitely understand that for a lot of students of color, this can be a very painful time. But personally, what I was more upset by is that her actions disgraced our school,” a student organizing the walkout, Engu, told KIRO Radio.
Engu says the walkout is not about a free day at school, but an opportunity for students to understand that these things do happen and it’s important to talk about them.
The walkout is scheduled for 12:15 p.m.
The post included a photo of two students next to a sign related to “tolo,” a dance where a girl asks a boy to go with her.
“If I was black I’d be picking cotton,” the sign reads, “but instead I pick you. Tolo?”
The female student was identified on social media in at least one tweet to the Issaquah School District. The sign also identifies the male’s first name from the sign, and shows the two posing together. The photo appears to be a screengrab from Snapchat.
“We are deeply troubled, discouraged and, quite frankly, appalled by the racially insensitive social media post involving Issaquah High School students,” Superintendent Ron Thiele wrote in a statement. “The words and actions of the students involved are not consistent with our beliefs and values as a District and we are truly saddened by the negative impact this has had on our entire community, particularly our students of color.”
The school has not identified the students.
The Issaquah School District Board also posted a written statement to “publicly express our disappointment and to affirm that every student in our district deserves to attend a school environment free from racism.”
The teen responded Monday afternoon on Instagram.
“I want you to know that I am genuinely sorry for the hurt feelings, chaos and rage that my tolo poster caused,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, the wrong image of myself was portrayed through the words written on the poster. Those who know my true heart know that I am not racist, and that evil way of thinking is something that makes me sick. I have no excuse for what was said, and I take full responsibility. I’m sorry to those who were affected. I feel so genuinely mortified and sorry about the situation that I am physically ill over it.
“Racism is not something to be made light of and I understand that by making that poster it made me out to look like a racist person. Racism is not what lies within my true heart. The sign was not okay and I’m sorry. It was wrong, it was hurtful, and it reflected me and who I am in a completely distorted way. I have a kind, loving, genuine soul, and I love all humans as humans. It was not my intention to upset anyone by what I wrote and if I could go back and change my actions, I would. It was a mistake that wasn’t thought through.
“I have no excuse, I’m only 17, and that’s not who I am. From the bottom of my heart, that was not me, that is not how I was raised or what my family believes in, and I understand the severity of what was written. I am sorry. I meant nothing by it. It was just some stupid poster we found on Pinterest, but it wasn’t ok for me to copy, and it wasn’t funny, and I understand. I’m sorry.”
KIRO Radio contributed to this report.