HURRICANE, Washington County — Police in southern Utah are investigating and two high school students are being disciplined for their alleged roles in a picture showing a person in a white hood holding two others with black material on their faces.
Administrators say they are saddened and disgusted by the "repulsive" Snapchat photo with a Confederate flag backdrop and a caption with a racial slur and an apparent reference to hunting African Americans.
"No level of discipline can repair the hate, bigotry and ugliness portrayed in that one picture. The vulgar ignorance and idiocy on display are beyond repair by any small discipline we can provide," Washington County School District spokesman Steven Dunham said in a statement.
The district moved to discipline two Hurricane High School students late Thursday when it first learned of the picture, Dunham confirmed. The image was not captured on school grounds or during school time, so administrators had fewer options to sanction the students, but said that does not "minimize our abhorrence of this racist act."
Dunham declined to say how the students were punished.
Several of the school's roughly 1,000 students are black, Dunham added, but he didn't know how many. He said two others were involved in the photo, both adults who are not students are not affiliated with the school. Three people are shown in the picture. The hooded person is shown holding the other two by the backs of their collars.
Administrators told police about the picture and urged them to bring in federal investigators if warranted. "As you consider civil rights, we wanted everyone to be involved from the very beginning on this," Dunham said.
Hurricane police said the post had been circulating on various social media channels and is the subject of an investigation. The police department urged people not to share the photo, warning it would "spread this hurtful message further."37 comments on this story
Detectives don't condone the message but recognize the right to free speech, the post said. They did not immediately respond to a message seeking more information Friday.
Dunham said the school district will continue to "teach of love, kindness and inclusion" and remind students there is no room for intolerance and hatred. "As district administrators, we are considering what education would be helpful for students to understand the significance of civil rights protections and violations, as well as appropriate use of social media," he said.