ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) -- The Escondido Union High School District has confirmed that a photo showing students using a racial slur is real.
Former students say the photo, showing students wearing lettered t-shirts that spell the racial slur, was taken Thursday around noon during a senior picnic at Escondido High School.
A total of nine students were in the picture spelling out the word, often referred to as the n-word.
The traditional picnic where the photo was taken allows seniors to wear shirts with letters on them, spelling out words with their friends in a senior photo.
Students say the words must all be pre-approved, but that students often get together after taking the official photo to spell different words for their own pictures.
Seeing the post angered Escondido High School graduate, Cade Pannell.
"It hurt me personally," he said. "Whether they thought it was a joke, it's not. And if you do think it's a joke, I think that's very ignorant of you."
Jovan Pete, a 2017 graduate, said he's worried the picture will hurt the schools reputation.
People who haven't attended the school "don’t know how it is here," he said. "So they just look at that and assume that's how it is there. Just racist kids there or just obnoxious kids who don’t know right from wrong."
He countered that, saying his race was never an issue.
"I think its a great school. The teaching is great, sports are good, I never had problems here."
The district sent 10News the following statement:
Today, during a senior event on campus approximately 10 students made a poor decision to participate in an activity that is not aligned with Escondido High School’s culture, values or history. Principal Dr. Adriana Lepe-Ramirez expressed her deep sadness with this occurrence and stated, “We are a campus that prides itself on inclusion and embraces diversity. We will not tolerate actions that send messages of racism and promote divisiveness. We will work with students, as well as staff, to ensure a respectful and safe environment is maintained throughout our campus. We all need to understand the power of our words and actions, and we must take responsibility for the decisions we make each and every day. At Escondido High School we will continue to work every day to build a culture of family and unity across our community.” Escondido High School, along with the district office, has been working alongside the Escondido Police Department and others to conduct a thorough review of this incident. Parents and guardians of the students involved are being contacted by school administrators, and appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken. Teachers, administrators and community members are committed to continuing their efforts to teach and guide students toward making wise, informed choices.
Escondido High School officials sent 10News a transcript of a statement the school's principal made over the intercom Friday morning.
Good Morning Cougars, this is your Principal, Dr. Lepe-Ramirez. In light of yesterday’s incident, I’d like to address you all and express my sadness and disappointment in the choices that were made during the Senior Barbeque.
I understand that the messages that were posted on social media incited anger and frustration, but I want to encourage you all to remember that the only thing that combats hate is love, the only thing that combats divisiveness is unity. Cougars, earlier this year I addressed you all and spoke of family. We are family, and it is now more than ever that we need to demonstrate our compassion and trust in each other. We cannot allow the poor choices of others to take away from who we are and what we represent as a school and as a community. It is now, more than ever, that we need to stand united in peace and in love. We cannot and will not allow this incident to define us or divide us. It is our diversity that makes us better and our understanding of one another that brings us together. We have a long rich history on this campus, one that represents the heart and pride of our community. We will continue to learn and grow from this incident and I believe that we will come out stronger in the end. Thank you Cougars; let’s make it a great day!