'I think it shows blatant racism': High school homecoming proposal sign creates controversy

Two students facing discipline

CARROLL COUNTY, Va. – By now, you’ve likely seen or heard of the photo.

Two students reportedly from Fort Chiswell High School and two from Carroll County High School posing together as homecoming dates with signs that say, “If I was black, I’d be picking cotton. But I'm white, so I'm picking you.”

“I was shocked at first, a little surprised," said Gabrielle Foster, who knows some of the people in the photo through a mutual friend.

She’s also an advocate for racial justice.

When a friend sent her the photo, she felt she needed to share it on social media.

“I think it shows blatant racism. They said it wasn’t meant to come across that way, but there’s not a way that it can’t come across this way," Foster said. "They called me last night to try and discuss it, but it didn’t go well.”

The two girls in the photo go to Carroll County High School.

Principal Chuck Thompson said the girls will not be allowed to go to homecoming, but he couldn’t elaborate on any other discipline they’re facing.

“The parents brought the students in this morning on their own behalf. We counseled students on what is appropriate behavior and attitude. That’s not the behavior or attitude we expect here at Carroll County High School,” Thompson said.

He said the students were very remorseful.

This experience will be used as a learning experience for students, according to Assistant Superintendent Mark Burnette.

“There are some things in the works right now that we’re talking about doing that kind of goes along with our character education program,” Burnette said.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Wythe County Schools did not confirm that two students from Fort Chiswell High School are in the photo, but did say the school district is investigating.

"Wythe County Public Schools became aware of a racially insensitive post to social media earlier today.

School administrators are investigating the incident, and if any Wythe County Public School students are in violation of our Code of Conduct, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

Wythe County Public Schools considers this incident to be very serious, and does not condone this type of behavior.

Additionally, Wythe County Public Schools will use this incident as a learning and teaching opportunity for our students."

Students declined to speak on camera Wednesday.

A friend of the girls - who asked to remain anonymous - provided a statement to 10 News, saying, in part, "Now people are only harassing and bullying the girls. They have received many messages regarding the picture and what people don't realize is that they are only making the situation worse. The girls understand they offended many people, not only in our community but in many others, therefore it is not necessary to continue to bully these girls."