Photo spelling out racial slur spurs calls for expulsion at Bel Air High School

Posted at 11:30 PM, Oct 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-17 06:39:08-04

Over 16,000 people have signed a petition calling for the expulsion of students already punished for spelling out a racial slur at Bel Air High School.

Harford County Schools says 7 students were disciplined, but did not reveal how.

"Honestly, I was disgusted, disappointed, hurt," says Jahneen Keatz, whose daughter attends Bel Air High School.

Keatz and other parents launched the petition late last week.

"I think there should be zero tolerance for something like this," she said. "Send a strong message, not just to them but to anyone who thinks this is OK."

According to Keatz, students were encouraged to wear a letter on their shirts for School Spirit Week, and then join together to spell words. Students were punished after being photographed spelling out the N-word.

"These children chose to spell out this word. My concern is, is this what they consider the spirit of the school?" she said.

Harford County Public Schools released a statement saying in part:

The use of racial slurs, or any discriminatory comments, is not acceptable in Harford County Public Schools. As a school system, we welcome and honor diversity and are committed to facilitating a safe and secure environment for all of our students and staff. Given the nature of the incident that occurred at Bel Air High School, the school staff, the administration, and the entire student body will have an opportunity to work towards an inclusive, supportive, and respectful learning environment with the guidance of the Supervisor of Equity & Cultural Proficiency.

Harford County Public Schools also says continued professional development for staff will focus on cultural responsiveness and inclusivity.