Starkville Academy Follow-Up Statement
After being informed of the altered-photograph hoax that occurred this past Sunday, Starkville Academy contacted legal authorities to alert them of the incident and to offer to assist in any way in their investigation. Additionally, SA conducted its own thorough inquiry. During this process, an SA junior high student contacted school officials to accept responsibility for altering the photograph to include the offensive language and sharing it in a text message group, which led to its subsequent unintended distribution. SA was able to confirm, both through that contact and countless other reports, that the words reflected on the photograph were not created by or with the knowledge of the student depicted in the picture, as was being inaccurately claimed.
As is often the case with matters involving social media, the explanation of what truly happened has continued to lag behind the circulation of the photograph. The young girl shown in the picture is one of many victims in this event and, despite that, she and her family have received and continue to receive threats of violence and other harm. SA has communicated with this student and her family and has offered its continued support in helping her return to school, whether at SA or at any other school she may determine to attend, and to offer assistance in helping her to regain some sense of normalcy in her life. She is in no way deserving of the harm she has suffered.
The teenager who altered and shared the photograph is no longer a student at SA. Although many will desire additional details of SA’s actions in that regard, SA is not allowed to comment further due to student privacy requirements, safety concerns, and the existence of ongoing proceedings.
On Monday morning, Starkville Academy’s Head of School met in assembly with the school’s junior high and high school students to discuss this incident and to offer the school’s full resources to any student who had been affected by the comments. In closing this assembly, the Head of School reiterated to SA’s students the following: the comments contained in the photograph are not reflective of the culture at SA and will not be tolerated. If any of the comments contained in that altered picture are reflective of a student’s views, that student is not welcome at our school and will be allowed to withdraw immediately. The school will reiterate these points, along with concerns regarding the need for caution when using or reading social media, with students in future conversations.
For the avoidance of doubt, Starkville Academy again states here: SA affirmatively desires that students of all races attend its school and feel welcome on its campus. Although student discipline matters will and must be handled internally, racially offensive comments or attitudes will not be tolerated.