One of the girls pictured in an Arizona high school photo wearing the "R" in a series of t-shirts spelling out the N-word spoke at a protest over the incident and said she is "not racist." Meanwhile a black former teacher at the school says the incident only vindicates her lawsuit over blatant racism at the school.
The photo of six white female students wearing black t-shirts with gold lettering spelling out "NI**ER" has circulated widely, sparking outrage. On Monday, the girl, identified only as "Rachel" by the Arizona Republic, spoke at a protest.
"I have come here to say that I know people have been offended from what I did, and I’ve come here to say I am incredibly, incredibly sorry," she told the crowd gathered at Desert Vista High School. "I have love for everyone in my heart. I am not a racist, and I am asking everyone for forgiveness."
Dr. Cicely Cobb, a former teacher at the school, would probably beg to differ on Rachel's "not racist" claims. Cobb is currently suing Tempe Union High School District for ignoring her complaints in 2014 that students at Desert Vista were openly racist toward her and other black students.
Cobb told ABC15 the t-shirt incident vindicates her.
"I had been portrayed in this community as the crazy, angry black woman who claimed that there were racial issues at Desert Vista High School, but apparently there were not," she said.
The girls are being disciplined, school officials told the news station, and are currently on suspension.
The photo was originally posted to the social media platform Snapchat -- and was supposed to disappear after 24 hours. Instead it has gone viral. A petition on Change.org has garnered more than 42,000 signatures demanding the girls be expelled and the principal be fired.
A second petition, which has 176 signatories, calls for the girls to be allowed to stay at the school. "Mob justice is at it again and this time it's trying to ruin six high school girls' lives because of a stupid joke," that petition reads.
On Monday, the school announced a campaign to "spread the word about the N-word," which Cobb called ridiculous.
"It seems quite elementary considering how horrific of an event transpired at their school. It makes [the community] look like a joke," she told the station.
Arizona pastor Rev. Jarrett Maupin organized Monday's rally and told the Republic he is working with a civil rights attorney to "present a joint letter to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, demanding an investigation and federal oversight for the Tempe Union High School District until Black students can be guaranteed a racism-free learning environment."
Cobb's 2014 lawsuit claims white students made racist comments about black students, took pictures of her, threatened her and even hit her on the head with a bathroom pass, but were not disciplined. She also claimed she was discriminated against by school administrators.
"These students should be expelled," she told ABC15. "Do I think they will? Look at their history with me."
Watch the report, from ABC15, here: