An assistant principal who has come under fire for a racially insensitive retweet says she has been put on administrative leave and that she does not harbor racial prejudices.
Earlier this week, students at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia, walked out of class to protest a retweet from the high school’s assistant principal, Amy Strickland. The retweet showed a picture of a group of black boys and white girls dressed for a high school prom, with the caption “Every white girl’s father’s worst nightmare.”
“I could have been any one of the boys in the picture,” student Michael LeMelle said to local outlet WAVY-TV earlier this week. “And I really don’t see myself, like I said earlier, as anyone’s worst nightmare.”
In a statement provided by her attorney to local ABC affiliate 13 News Now, Strickland responded to the controversy.
Strickland said that both of her daughters attended prom with African-American students, and that the retweet was an attempt at "good natured humor concerning mixed race couples attending a high school prom."
“Because I have two daughters who in fact did attend proms with African American dates, I casually forwarded the ‘tweet’ last June to one of those daughters. The ‘retweet’ from last June has now resurfaced and become the object of intense media criticism and calls for my dismissal from Booker T. Washington on grounds of racism,” she said.
“Media reports suggesting that I am racially prejudiced are one thousand percent false, as my record and my many students, colleagues, friends, and family members who are African American can and, if necessary, will attest. I deeply apologize to anyone I have inadvertently offended,” she added.
The statement also notes that Strickland was previously named teacher of the year in a predominantly black school system.
According to a previous report from WAVY-TV, the tweet originated from the account @OrNahhTweets. It is not clear where the photo came from. Strickland's statement says she sent the tweet months ago -- before she started working at the high school.
Norfolk Public Schools spokeswoman Elizabeth Mather told The Huffington Post over email that she did not have any new information to share about the situation, noting that it was a "personnel matter."
The local branch of the NAACP also chimed in on the controversy prior to Strickland’s statement. Norfolk Branch NAACP President Joe Dillard told WAVY-TV in a statement that the organization is launching its own investigation into the situation.
“We hold the administration accountable for their actions. We will not tolerate racism in this city and definitely not in the education system. Booker T. Washington High School is a fragile school; and the last thing we need in our community are students walking out of school in protest to racist administrators,” says the statement.
In an op-ed for the local outlet The Virginian-Pilot, columnist Kerry Dougherty criticized Strickland for the tweet, but said that she probably did not have prejudiced intentions.
"I believe her, just as I believe it was an unwitting mistake to retweet that picture. Strickland is certainly not the first person to regret a retweet," she wrote. "Instead of drumming a dedicated educator out of her job over a 6-month-old posting on social media, Norfolk school officials - and students - should accept Strickland's apology and seize the opportunity to discuss the pitfalls and pluses of Twitter and Facebook."