Phoenix High School Students Spell Out Racial Slur With Their T-Shirts

The district has promised disciplinary action against the six involved.

What should have been a fun photo shoot at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix turned ugly when several students used the letters on their T-shirts to spell out a racist word.

The roughly three dozen girls in the original photo lined up in T-shirts each with a single letter or asterisk to spell out BEST*YOU'VE*EVER*SEEN*CLASS*OF*2016:

But six of students got together and decided to spell out a new word:

Students at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix spell out a racist word.
Students at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix spell out a racist word.

"I was shocked," freshman Jaden Phillips told the The Arizona Republic. "I didn't expect that, white girls saying the N word."

"I didn't think it was funny at all, I thought it was very, very offensive," student Dejah Brightly told the paper.

District officials promised discipline.

"The event that took place today at Desert Vista will not be tolerated," Tempe Union Superintendent Kenneth R. Baca said in a statement. "It is unacceptable for any racial slur to be used regardless of intent. We need to understand that words matter. I can assure you the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken."

While there are reports that the girls have been suspended for five days, the district suggested otherwise.

Calling the disciplinary action "ongoing," the district wrote on Twitter: "We can't be specific about the discipline, but can assure you it's not what's been reported."

Some people want the district to come down hard on the girls as well as the administration. A petition on calling for the students to be expelled and principal Christine Barela to be fired garnered more than 35,000 signatures in two days.

As the story makes national headlines, students have rallied to the defense of their school. The Desert Vista Black Student Union took to Twitter to say the incident doesn't reflect the school's culture:

In addition, the school's basketball coach shared an image showing the team locking arms, with the hashtag #talkitout.

But there were also reports of increased tensions at the school, and extra police were brought in for security.

ABC 15, for instance, captured footage of a shoving match that broke out at the school.

"Yeah it's a bad, derogatory term and you never know it offends but it's not that big of a deal to me," said a student, who appears to be black in the mosaicked video. He was then interrupted by a white student who stepped in front of the camera in an attempt to stop the interview:

Barela, the school's principal, sent an email to parents saying she shared the "outrage" and "disappointment" over the photo.

"We want to make it crystal clear those actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Desert Vista. Those actions do not represent who we are as a campus," Barela wrote. "While we don't discuss individual discipline, we can tell you that in addition, the obvious need for sensitivity training will be addressed."

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