Students say cropped photo shows racial tension at Dunwoody High

A doctored photo of Dunwoody High School cheerleaders that deleted the lone black student sparked a rally by students demanding equal treatment in a school where they say they face an increasing racial divide.

DeKalb County School District officials said they are aware of the concerns about racial tensions at the school, and a plan is being developed to address issues and keep abreast of progress.

Black students and parents, though, are skeptical, and say little has been done to address a sentiment that has always gone too far.

“It’s hard to go to class and constantly hear racial slurs and jokes thrown around. It’s really hard,” said Arryanna Dixon, a senior at Dunwoody High School. “I complained (a white student) said the n-word to me … and nothing was done.”

Social media posts began popping up last week showing a group photo of cheerleaders and its edited version, which eliminated the only black person in the picture.

DeKalb Board of Education member Stan Jester wrote on his blog this weekend that the photo had inadvertently been cropped by a photo system at Walgreens. He also posted a short clip from Monday’s rally.

Jester wrote that there’s a 20-year tradition at Dunwoody High for the varsity cheerleaders to give the coach a photo collage, and that a parent brought a camera to Senior Night to capture images. When the pictures were put into a photo system at a Walgreens drugstore, it cropped all of them into a smaller frame. he said.

Jester did not attribute the information to anyone else.

The teen cropped out of the photo addressed the controversy on social media, saying she found the picture while looking through a pile of photos on her coach’s desk.

“In the group photo, the only BLACK girl was cropped out,” she wrote. “The person who did it should have simply taken responsibility. But instead, they let the situation get out of hand …”

Schelle Purcell, whose daughter helped organize the rally Monday morning, said it’s the latest in a long line of issues she’s heard from students attending the school.

“And if it was a mistake, the photo should have never left Walgreens at all,” she said. “There never should have been room for the photo to circulate at all.

“Now, you want to say it was an accident.”

Purcell said when her daughter, Chanel Fairley, was nominated for Homecoming court as a freshman during the 2016-2017 school year, the teen was told by others that black girls just don’t win court positions at Dunwoody.

Chanel won both last year and this year.

Chanel said further proof of the school’s ongoing tension came after the rally, when white students complained about its purpose.

“All the white kids who weren’t for the protest wanted to argue about it afterward,” she said. “You might say you’re not racist, but look who’s mad.”

Superintendent Steve Green said in a statement that the district would more aggressively address the lack of diversity in advanced classes, form a junior leadership council to advise campus leaders and provide a space for open and honest dialogue.

“Students at Dunwoody High School are requesting more from us academically and in their school climate,” he said. “Our role as both educators and responsible citizens is to listen to the concern driving the expression, and use that information to support our children’s intellectual and social growth.”

Dixon, the senior, said she isn’t holding her breath about progress.

“I like they’re trying to address the problem,” she said. “I’m trying to be hopeful, but it’s really hard. There’s still incidents going on, and people are not being punished for it.”

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