The superintendent of Robertsdale High School in Alabama is "looking into the matter" of a student who brought a blatantly racist sign to a school football rally.
The image, which went viral after it was posted to Instagram, shows two teenage girls, one of whom is holding a sign that reads "Put the 'Panic' back in Hispanic." The student to her right holds a Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" banner. The photo was taken at a Robertsdale football game against the Spanish Fort Toros.
"Put the Panic back in Hispanic. #dontgetButthurt," Harley Powell wrote in the caption. "I'm honestly not gonna care if you do anyways so!! #sorryboutit." Powell has since deleted her Instagram account, but screenshots of the post have gone viral.
"This happened yesterday at our school pep rally. They know it's Hispanic Month. That's very disrespectful in so my ways. But it's funny to think that our school thinks it 'OKAY.' This is Honestly what white trash looks like," student Jennifer Lopez Vazquez wrote on Facebook.
"The girls had posted on Instagram. Thinking it was a joke. To make fun of Hispanics. Knowing it's Hispanic Month!" Vasquez told BuzzFeed News. "But it clearly shows they have no respect! But then again the school doesn't care. That's why the students do what they do."
Eddie Tyler, the superintendent of Baldwin County Public Schools, said the school is investigating the matter: "We are aware of a photo that appears to be taken at a Robertsdale High School football pep rally Friday Sept. 15 that is circulating on social media containing political banners and unacceptable language," Tyler in a statement. "School administrators, as well as my office, are following up on the matter."
Refinery29 has reached out to Baldwin County Public Schools for comment.
Domingo Soto, a lawyer representing one of the girls captured in the Instagram photo, told Local 15 TV that the student was making a joke about her school's rival football team. "This is a kind of sophomoric joke that's kind of just gotten out of control," Soto claimed.
News 5 obtained a statement from the student who was holding the sign in question. "I am one of the girls in the picture at the Robertsdale High school pep rally. I had the sign that said 'Put the 'panic' back in Hispanic'. Sir I would like to inform you that, that wasn’t my intention and was not meat (sic) for it to be taken that way," she wrote in a statement to the school board. "We played the Spanish Fort Toros on Friday night, I was meaning 'panic the Toros' considering when I think Spanish I think Mexican or Hispanic. When I realized how people were taking it, I wasn’t going to bring it. But my friend who had it in his truck brought it to the bleachers, when one of the boys sitting near me saw it and held it up."
A Robertsdale alum says she experienced racism as a student, but this incident is a new low. "I am deeply hurt and confused as to why this was accepted as acceptable at a public high school," said former class president, Krystal Austin Moore. "I experienced very underhanded racism on several accounts as a student, but never in my lifetime would I imagine this would still be penetrated into the student body on this level at my beloved alumni."