(Editor's warning: This story contains an embedded image of a reenactment of the death of George Floyd)
DENVER (KMGH) – Three students at Mead High School were seen in a picture posted to social media of them reenacting the murder of George Floyd, with one of the students in blackface, which the St. Vrain Valley Schools superintendent calls “disturbing and disgusting.”
Students KMGHspoke with Thursday said the image was posted to Snapchat. It shows one student in blackface lying on the ground, another kneeling on that student’s neck, and another kneeling on his back – the same position Floyd was in just before he was killed last summer.
A caption on the photo says, “Bye bye seniors (sic).”
Mead High School Principal Rachael Ayers sent a letter to students and parents of the high school Wednesday saying she was made aware of the “highly offensive photo” on Tuesday and that the photo was taken on school grounds. The students have not been identified, and school and district officials did not say when the photo was taken on school property.
Ayers said the photo “did not reflect our school’s high standards of respect, character, and inclusivity.”
“We take this type of conduct very seriously and have begun an investigation into the matter,” Ayers wrote. “If you or your student saw this social media post and would like to process any feelings it may have brought forward, our counseling staff is prepared to provide additional support.”
Don Haddad, Ed.D., the superintendent for St. Vrain Valley Schools, issued a statement Thursday condemning the students’ actions in the photo and the spreading of it on social media.
“We in the St. Vrain Valley Schools strongly condemn, and have no tolerance for, racism in any form and will be addressing this extremely serious matter immediately and accordingly,” Haddad said. “Our district reaffirms its commitment to diversity and equality in our schools and in our operations.”
Several Mead High School students said Thursday they were disgusted by the picture.
“I think it’s absolutely awful and disgusting. It does not represent Mead High School at all,” said William Dickerson, a junior at the school who saw the picture on Snapchat after seeing the principal’s email. “It’s a very isolated group that does not get along with a lot of kids at Mead High. It was awful, what was posted, and it doesn’t represent us at all.”
Dickerson said he was angry and disappointed in his classmates when he saw the photo and said people who were sharing it or reposting it also expressed much anger when doing so. Dickerson said he felt like the three students involved “need to know what they did was very wrong.”
He said he screenshotted it and reposted it.
“Because in my own personal beliefs, you have to fight for what you believe in. And if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” Dickerson said. “And when you see stuff like this happening in your own community, you have to stand up and fight against it.”
Ana Carrillo, who will be going into her junior year next year, started a petition online after seeing the photo from a friend.
“Mead High is represented by our students, the same students who just showed the worst in humanity, our school is divide, we must grow from this and especially learn,” the petition said. “If you believe in growing as a community to create change please sign this petition.”
Carrillo said this is not the first time a racial issue has come up at the school and that she believes such things need to come to an end.
“I don’t think those people who did that should be able to come back to this school because they’ve put such a bad image on our school,” she said. “I don’t want that to represent our school. I want equality for all, and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Andrea Sanchez, who is graduating this year, said she was “disturbed” when she saw the post.
“No one should be able to make fun of that. Really, I mean it’s disturbing; it’s a murder. It shouldn't be re-created, it shouldn’t be made fun of – nothing,” Sanchez said. “We’re so divided. Like everyone is divided, and our high school, my four years here, everyone is divide and has their own group, I guess. It’s horrible.”
Carrillo is helping to organize a protest at school on Friday, and some students said they are planning to wear black to school to show solidarity.