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Racist Homecoming Sign Sparks Investigations At St. James Academy And Olathe Public Schools

A social media post featuring two white students holding up a racist homecoming sign went viral on social media last week.
A social media post featuring two white students holding up a racist homecoming sign went viral on social media last week.

A viral social media post showed two white students holding a homecoming dance proposal sign reading, “If I were Black, I’d be picking cotton. But I’m white, so I’m picking you for HOCO.” The schools of the two students say they are investigating.

St. James Academy is investigating a racist post circulating on social media that included one of the school’s students, as well as a student from Olathe South High School.

The post, which first made the rounds on social media late last week, shows two students holding a Homecoming dance proposal sign that reads, “If I were Black, I’d be picking cotton. But I’m white, so I’m picking you for [Homecoming].”

St. James, a private Catholic high school in Lenexa, announced its response to the post over the weekend, including a letter to parents and students on Saturday, urging families to “have a conversation with your children” about racism.

Shane Rapp, principal of St. James Academy, said the situation remains under investigation since administrators were made aware of it Friday evening.

He said staff is also in contact with Olathe South officials, as well as the St. James student and her family about next steps.

The school also posted a message to its own social media accounts. The offensive post depicting the sign was “explicitly racist in nature,” the letter to parents said.

“We wanted to let you know that we are aware of an offensive post on social media that included an SJA student. We are currently investigating the situation to determine the appropriate next steps,” the letter continued.

Olathe Public Schools said in a statement they are conducting an investigation, and interviewing the students and families involved to provide due process.

The incident comes as another Kansas City area school deals with racist actions by students in recent days.

Earlier this month, a student-generated petition to bring back slavery circulated through Park Hill South High in Riverside, Mo.

School officials have told local media they are investigating that petition. Several parents spoke out about the harmful impacts of the petition at a school board meeting in Park Hill last week.

Rapp said St. James is reaching out to its students of color and their families “to begin a conversation of support.”

“We’re looking at other opportunities to make sure all of our students are supported as we walk through this,” Rapp said. “We did address our student body this morning as well, just kind of talked about the incident and what our role is as Catholics in understanding racism and addressing it, and speaking up when we see something that’s not right.”

The St. James Academy letter to students and families includes a paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which declares: “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin,” and that all should enjoy “an equal dignity.”

“Racism in any form is an assault on this dignity,” the school’s letter continued. “We ask that you have a conversation with your children this weekend about the importance of seeing each individual as their neighbor and as a brother or sister in Christ while we prayerfully discern the best way to handle the situation at hand.”

This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.

Leah Wankum is a reporter for the Shawnee Mission Post
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