“Bye bye senoirs [sic],” the caption read, with a hand-waving emoji to the class of 2021.
Infuriated classmates took and shared screenshots of the post, which set off weeks of protests and calls for action against what some students claimed is a culture of racism at the school, which is 35 miles north of Denver.
Don Haddad, superintendent of St. Vrain Valley Schools, said Monday in a letter to families that Mead High Principal Rachael Ayers had resigned, less than a month after the Snapchat image was made public. In the letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post, the superintendent did not mention last month’s incident in announcing her departure.
“I want to thank her for her lengthy service to the Mead High community for the past 12 years as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal, and I wish Mrs. Ayers the very best in her future endeavors,” Haddad wrote.
Kerri McDermid, a spokeswoman with St. Vrain Valley Schools, told The Post that the school district could not release information on the status of the students in question or whether they had been disciplined. Students told Denver’s KCNC-TV that the three students, who have not been publicly identified, were suspended for five days.
Ayers, 48, who had denounced the “highly-offensive photo,” did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
It is the latest incident at schools nationwide that officials have had to address Floyd’s murder, at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in one form or another in recent weeks.
A Connecticut high school apologized after a student submitted a quote for its yearbook from Adolf Hitler that was attributed to Floyd. In Arkansas, a junior high school’s yearbook enraged parents for not only falsely claiming that former president Donald Trump was not impeached but for also comparing the racial justice protests following Floyd’s death to the pro-Trump mob’s attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Administrators at a Florida high school temporarily stopped selling its yearbook because it included a section on the Black Lives Matter movement that contained the names of those killed by police.
Instances of people reenacting Floyd’s death have made headlines over the past year — from White men mocking his murder during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in New Jersey to Trump supporters doing the same in the District on Jan. 6. Last month, high school students in Arizona were disciplined after a video showed them reenacting the scene in class.
The Longmont incident occurred days before Mead High’s graduation. Students reportedly sent screenshots of the post to Ayers and the school administration around May 19. Haddad said he was made aware of the post that day.
“Mead High is represented by our students, the same students who just showed the worst in humanity,” Carrillo, a rising junior, said in the petition. “Our school is divided, we must grow from this and especially learn.”
About 73 percent of the school’s students are White, according to U.S. News and World Report. Less than 1 percent of the students are Black, the site shows.
The superintendent posted a letter to the community on May 20 condemning “racism in any form.” 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,” she wrote in a letter to families.
But that did not stop dozens of students from walking out of class May 21 in protest of the Snapchat post, which, they told local media, was not the only instance of racism at the school. Students held up Black Lives Matter signs while chanting, “Hold them accountable!”
“They’re 17 years old! They knew what they were doing!” one student protester yelled outside the school.
Many called for the three students to be expelled.
“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,” Carrillo told reporters last month. “I don’t want that to represent our school.”
William Dickerson, a rising senior, described the three students to the Denver Channel as “a very isolated group that does not get along with a lot of kids at Mead High.”
One student told reporters that she was “disgusted and embarrassed, but honestly I wasn’t surprised.”
Kara Bee, a 16-year-old Black student at Mead High, was shocked at seeing the Snapchat image.
“That was murder they’re making fun of,” she told KCNC last month. “As one of the only Black people here, I think it’s important to speak up about these issues and not just kick them under the rug.”
The students were joined by organizations, including the Boulder County chapter of the NAACP, in calling for more to be done at Mead High. Alicia Graves, chair for the NAACP chapter’s education committee, noted to the Boulder Daily Camera how the three students felt comfortable “reenacting one of the most graphic and gruesome murders we’ve seen” — and doing so on school grounds. A virtual town hall will be held this week to discuss how to address what the organizations say is systemic racism in the school district.
As he announced Ayers’s departure Monday, Haddad also introduced the school’s new principal, Brian Young, who the superintendent said would “focus on a safe and inclusive school environment and culture for every student, teacher, staff, and community member.”