Over the weekend of Sept. 24, 2021, a photo took the Olathe and Kansas City community by storm, prompting district and city-wide calls to action in preventing instances of racist speech or expression. The photo detailed two white students holding a sign stating, “If I was black, I would be picking cotton. But I’m white, so I’m picking you for HOCO [Homecoming]?” The sign also featured cotton balls alongside yes and no checkboxes
The two teens in the photo –one male and one female –were identified to be students from Olathe South High School in Olathe, Kan. and St. James Academy in Lenexa, Kan.
In response to public outcry, St. James Academy responded promptly to the situation on Sept. 25 via a Twitter statement:
Soon after, Olathe Superintendent Brent Yeager issued an official statement on Sept. 30, writing, “I am deeply saddened that this happened in our community. However, this should serve as [a] message to all of us to come together, to create positive change. Creating an inclusive community is incumbent on all of us.”
Rhonda Windholz, the mother of the female student in the photo, released a statement to KSHB 41 News on Sept. 25 to shed more light on the situation: “One Caucasian and one African-American boy were involved. It was the African-American boy who actually made the sign, already marked up and took the picture. This by no means makes it right…”
Although sources have stated the involved Black student was suspended, banned or otherwise discouraged from attending the high school, there are no confirmed reports of this happening.
Yeager’s letter to the community concluded that the district will be working to prevent instances such as this from happening in the future, but also encouraged parents to take action and talk to their children about racism.
This incident occurred only days after the Park Hill South School District opened an investigation into a student-initated petition calling for the reinstatement of slavery.
This is an ongoing case and The Hilltop Monitor will update once more information is released.