Sierra Vista students post racially insensitive photo of teacher

Sierra Vista students post racially insensitive photo of teacher
Students post offensive photo of a middle school teacher. (Source: Tucson News Now)

SIERRA VISTA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A racially insensitive photo posted to Snapchat by a student at Joyce Clark Middle School quickly spread through the Sierra Vista community.

The picture featured a black teacher’s face pasted over the body of an ape.

Tucson News Now has chosen not to show the photo or identify the educator.

KOLD Middle School students in Sierra Vista disciplined over offensive photo

Five students were disciplined for sharing the photograph and while the punishment could include expulsion, the district said it could not divulge whether the originator of the photo was expelled due to privacy rules.

The Sierra Vista Unified School District said the damage is likely limited because the photo was shared in only one school.

Even though the photo was distasteful and racist, Tucson News Now was told it did not rise to the level of a hate crime. The district determined the situation would be handled internally and saw no need to involve authorities.

“We found it was some bad decision making by some middle school children,” said SVSD Superintendent Kelly Glass.

The district said it was notified about the post by parents last week, but the picture disappeared quickly and it is hard to trace who made it because it was on Snapchat.

The educator, a music teacher who has been with the district 20 years, did not miss a beat, according to the district.

“She’s just a nice neat kind lady and interested in her children," Glass said. “Her comment was these are children being children.”

It is actions like this one that make some parents limit their children’s social media usage.

“I don’t like social media,” said SVSD parent Tammy Meggenburg. “And her (her daughter) being a young girl and vulnerable, you can never be too safe.”

Another parent said her daughter came home from school and showed her the picture which she said was “the most racist thing I’ve ever seen."

The parent, who did not want to be identified, said “the picture spread like wildfire.”

Even though the district identified only five children, the parent said,“hundreds likely saw (the photo).”

The district said it is considering sensitivity training but since it was limited to one school, the discussion is ongoing.

“Starting in the seventh grade, we start talking about how students interact with each other on social media,” Glass said. “(We do) digital citizenship courses and (talk about) how students treat each other and adults.”

The Joyce Clark Middle School website instructs students how to report bullying peer to peer but does not mention student-on-teacher bullying.

“This is a very small group of children,” Glass said. “They were provided counseling and instruction by our two principles at the middle school, their parents were phoned. They completely understand and are very apologetic for their actions."

The district said it believes it handled the situation appropriately.

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