Riverview High School says it is investigating.
SARASOTA COUNTY — A Riverview High student is under fire after using a racist sign to ask his girlfriend to the school’s prom.
The sign, reading “If I was black, I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white, so I’m picking u 4 prom,” made the rounds on Twitter Sunday night. The proposal was conducted by 18-year-old student Noah Crowley, the district confirmed. Riverview students found the image on the female student’s Snapchat, with a caption of two heart-eye emojis, implying that she was excited about the request. The Herald-Tribune did not identify Crowley until confirming that he is an adult.
By Monday morning, various Twitter posts had already received hundreds of retweets and favorites. One student tweeted out the image with the comment: “He seems to not know about America’s history. Racism is a problem. Definitely should not be allowed to go to the prom!!”
School district spokeswoman Tracey Beeker confirmed Monday morning that Crowley attended Riverview and the sign was under investigation by the school district. She said administrators have been speaking to the student and his parents on the phone since Sunday evening.
A robocall was sent to Riverview parents Monday morning, administrators said.
″[The post] was racial in nature and administration became aware of it last night,” said Riverview acting principal Kathy Wilks in a call to parents Monday morning. “Many who saw the post are understandably upset with its contents as well as the subsequent commentary to the post. Riverview High School absolutely does not condone or support the message conveyed in this post.”
She added: “We are focused on ensuring that Riverview High School provides a safe and secure environment for all of our students and that all students feel welcome and understand the value that they all bring to our school community. Our guidance counselors and administrators are available for any student who wish to speak to someone regarding the issue. Riverview High School has a wonderful student population and we know our school will use this incident as an opportunity to have productive conversations about respect for one another.”
Riverview senior Anton Kernohan, who has been involved in planning gun control protests at the school, said everyone he had talked with at the school was “disgusted” with the sign.
“But I think it is actually important that this issue occurred on some level,” he said Monday. “It shows that racism is still alive and well in our society, and it shows that racism is still alive in my generation and it is something that we as the youth will have to continue to fight against.”
Trevor Harvey, president of the Sarasota chapter of the NAACP, encouraged Sarasota school administrators to issue a district-wide response making it clear that the sign was inappropriate.
“A strong statement needs to be made to their student body that this type of behavior will not be tolerated on any of our campuses throughout the school district, and, if so, there are going to be severe consequences,” Harvey said. “When we see so many heightened race relations throughout our country, our district has to take a proactive standpoint to make sure that that stuff doesn’t spill off into our schools.”
The event comes on the heels of two black men being arrested at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia after they were denied access to the bathroom because they had not purchased anything. After they sat in the store waiting for a friend, a Starbucks employee called the police.
The incident led Starbucks to announce that they would close more than 8,000 stores on May 29 for anti-bias training. Harvey encouraged Sarasota County schools to do something similar.
“We are hoping the district takes our recommendation and brings groups in like us to help facilitate and have these open dialogues on just education and awareness on how these kinds of things impact everybody,” Harvey said. “It impacts everybody, not just blacks and Hispanics and Asians, it impacts all, and we need to sit down and deal with it.”
Beeker said the district is talking with local and national civic organizations to determine the best opportunities for “creating a conversation about racial relations.”
The district released a statement Monday afternoon noting that they do not “support or condone” the post’s message.
“Although this message is one student’s opinion, we take the matter of racial relations and school safety seriously, and we look forward to working with our students and these outside groups to have a meaningful and informative dialogue and expanded curriculum related to this important national topic,” the statement reads.
The district is still deciding whether any disciplinary action will be taken against the student, she added.
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