The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions.
They also said that as a result of his actions, he will not attend Riverview High School’s prom or graduation ceremony.
Noah Crowley, 18, sent out the "promposal" on Sunday over Snapchat. It shows a picture of him holding a sign that states: "If I was black I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white so I’m picking U 4 prom."
The incident prompted the Sarasota County School District to address the community and reach out to the Sarasota chapter of the NAACP. The teen also issued an apology on Sunday.
His family followed up with this statement on Tuesday evening:
"While our son has apologized himself, on behalf of our family, we wish to also express our most sincere apologies for the terrible words used in his ‘promposal.’ We love our son dearly and know that he is a far better person than reflected in this reckless behavior. That said, as loving parents, we also feel compelled to share our own deep regret and serious concern about his actions.
"After numerous familial conversations and lengthy discussions with Riverview High School administrators, we have jointly agreed that our son will not be attending any further school activities or functions, including the Prom or graduation ceremony.
"As a family, we truly recognize this incident is a very difficult but important life lesson and pledge to do all we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Certainly, we hope that all of the people and communities who were hurt and offended will forgive our son and family."
The 18-year-old issued this apology on Sunday:
"I want to sincerely apologize if I have offended anyone with the picture going around. That was not my intention. Anyone who knows me or [name redacted] knows that that’s not how we truly feel. It was a completely joke and it went too far. After reading the texts and Snapchat’s I truly see how I have offended people and I’m sorry."
Officials with the school district responded to the social media poston Monday, saying it was "racist in nature."
"Neither the school district nor Riverview High School condones or supports the message conveyed in the post," according to a statement. "This incident remains an on-going investigation and any disciplinary action and recommendation will be made accordingly."
In the statement, officials said it would be a priority for them to connect community leaders with the student body to discuss race relations and throughout the Sarasota County school system.
"Although this message is one student’s opinion, we take the matter of racial relations and school safety seriously, and we look forward to working with our students and these outside groups to have a meaningful and informative dialogue and expanded curriculum related to this important national topic," the district’s statement said.
Officials have reached out to the NAACP, said Trevor Harvey, president of the organization’s Sarasota chapter. He said the district has begun taking the first steps in creating a dialogue that could lead to educational conversations about contemporary race relations. But there is a long way to go.
"It’s only been 24 hours since we learned of this incident," Harvey said. "There are a lot of moving parts to really facilitate a meaningful discussion."
While no specific dates have been set, Harvey said the NAACP plans to participate in student-led discussion about race and social inequalities.
"So far, the school district has been dispatching counselors to speak with students and making the community aware of what they are doing," Harvey said. "They are reaching out to community leaders and professionals to facilitate this conversation.
"But I don’t want the main point to be lost: The district (must) make the student body aware that they will not accept this kind of behavior. We can have all the conversations we want, but if there is no action, then we are not really doing anything productive."
Critics have taken to social media themselves to complain that the school district’s response thus far has been weak. Students such as Erin Williams posted to Facebook saying that racism has been a consistent problem at the school and there needs to be some tough discussions to rectify the situation.
I do not think Sarasota schools take the rampant racism that goes on in our schools at every level seriously enough. It’s frightening. Please do more than issue a statement.— Victoria karins (@KarinsVictoria) April 24, 2018
Look at you all pretending this was an isolated incident and not something that has been happening at Riverview for a while. No one is buying it. Cancel the prom and spend that energy on reteaching your kids the value of equality and respect.— John Kahn (@jkahn63) April 24, 2018
School district spokeswoman Tracey Beeker said the initial response is just a first step in an evolving process to educate the student body.
"It’s a start. We have a launching pad or place to begin," Beeker said. "It’s something that can grow and evolve to include more programs moving forward."
Asked if racism in schools has been a problem for the county, Beeker said reports of such incidents are not common.
"This doesn’t happen every day. This isn’t something that happens often in our school district," Beeker said. "Anytime it does happen, we want to use this opportunity to listen and thoughtfully take a collective approach to addressing the problem."
Beeker said the school district will host roundtable discussions regarding social inequalities and racism in hopes of providing students an open and safe place to speak their minds.
These student-led discussions will host leaders with the school district and community — including Harvey — in hopes of fostering better communication between students.
"Once we understand what the concerns are from our students today, it will allow us to create a curriculum to address those concerns tomorrow," Beeker said.
Beeker said Crowley’s actions were still under investigation and that an announcement would be made soon about the school’s findings about his actions and how it would respond to his social media post.