Editor's note: This article has been corrected after misidentifying the race of student who was asked to the Sweetheart Ball. District 93 has not identified any students involved nor the students' race.
Bonneville Joint School District 93 Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme condemned a student’s actions on Tuesday after the student made a poster with a racist theme asking another student to a school dance.
A female student made a poster asking a male student to Thunder Ridge High School’s Sweetheart Ball. The intended recipient of the poster's message is white. Images of the poster were shared online by students and parents and show the poster containing the text “If I was Black I’d be picking cotton but I’m white so I’m picking you.”
Woolstenhulme sent a letter to parents and families in the district to respond to the poster. He wrote he was devastated and distraught to learn about the poster.
“As Superintendent, I feel a personal responsibility to our students, our staff, and our families who have been offended and hurt by this poster,” Woolstenhulme wrote. “While I will never be able to personally understand how it feels to be a target of racist and bigoted language, I recognize how traumatic such language must be. I am deeply sorry that such an awful remark was connected to our schools.”
Woolstenhulme refused to comment on whether the female student faced any discipline, citing student privacy. In his letter, he wrote school administration addressed the situation with the student and the student’s parents.
Racist dance proposals or “promposals” are not uncommon in U.S. high schools, as several news outlets have reported on local incidents in the last several years. Last April, a student at a high school in Big Lake, Minnesota, used the exact same wording as the Thunder Ridge student did on Monday to ask another student to prom.
“My son walked in the door and showed me this … I am crushed,” wrote one mother of a Black student as she shared an image of the poster on Facebook. “The kicker is he thought this girl was cool … you just never know …
“The reality is we won’t be able to erase the ugly in hearts and minds, but we can show our kids that we care enough to simply speak up and condemn this stuff … hopefully years down the road that’s what they will remember and hold dear. We appreciate your messages and support.”
Also in last April, Shelley High School posted photos of the school’s homecoming do-over week and some photos captured students who appeared to be in blackface. The school removed the photos after several community members criticized the school for allowing the students to do that.
“I want to assure our students, families, and staff that the Bonneville Joint School District 93 does not condone or permit racism, intolerance, or discrimination in any form,” Woolstenhulme wrote. “While I do not believe that the actions of a single student reflect the culture of an entire school, I also know that racist remarks are still sometimes made by students. Sometimes students repeat words and phrases without recognizing the racism inherent in them. We cannot turn a deaf ear to such language and pretend it could never happen here. Whenever such language is used, we have a moral obligation to confront it.”