‘It’s not a joke’: Pa. high school student, NAACP president respond to racist photo


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A photo taken by a group of high school girls and posted online Tuesday prompted an investigation by the school district they attend.

The picture shows several teenagers posing with a handwritten sign featuring a racial slur.

It’s taken on a life of its own since it was posted. Many viewers asked WHTM about it. Now, the district says it’s looking into it.

When Jalah Smith logged on Tuesday night, she was shocked.

“It spread really quickly,” the Central Dauphin High School senior said, “because things like this just don’t go away.”

The photo shows several female CD students smiling in a car, with at least two looking in windows from the outside. One is holding a sign that says “You stupid n—–.”

It was posted to Instagram and shared widely on other sites.

“That’s the big problem that we are trying to help them understand,” Smith said. “It’s not a joke. It’s something that’s more serious than this.”

Smith went so far as to email her principal about it.

“And on a daily basis I have to deal with the use of racial slurs and I am done being silent,” part of the email reads. “This is disgusting and needs to be brought to your attention.”

In a statement, the district said it is looking into the post, adding that “this type of speech and behavior contradicts the principles and core beliefs of equity, humanity, and dignity that we try to teach our students.”

“Just realize it’s ignorance,” Harrisburg NAACP president Stan Lawson said. “You can’t do anything with ignorance. What you can you do with ignorance?”

Lawson said education and historical context are missing.

“And it’s not just Central Dauphin,” he said. “I’m not picking on Central Dauphin. It happens everywhere.”

“It’s something that needs to be addressed,” Smith said.

At least two of the girls in the photo posted apologies. The district says it’s looking at appropriate punishments.

Whatever happens, Smith doesn’t think it’ll go far enough.

“You have to set your foot down on one of these incidents to show that you will not stand for anything like this happening,” she said.

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