(NAPLES, Fla.) — Jessica Morales, 18, said she was shocked to open her high school yearbook last week to see what she felt is a racially offensive photo depicting the “border patrol” interacting with students in stereotypical costumes.
“It was just really offensive because it kind of belittles the whole issue,” Morales told ABC affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa Bay, Florida, referring to the immigration process that both of her parents are still enduring.
The photo, which was printed on page 96 of the $90 Naples High School yearbook in Naples, Florida, pictured six students dressed in ponchos and sombreros and wearing mustaches, and one student in a shirt labeled “border patrol.”
Morales’ father, Miguel Morales, told WFTS-TV the image struck him as “really racist,” adding, “I’ve never seen anything like that, I thought it was 2015 and people don’t act like that.”
However, a senior who said she participated in the initial staged snapshots, but was not involved with the “border patrol” part of the photo presented there, told ABC News that she and her friends were just fooling around and no offense was intended. She said they were dressed in the themed attire in order to represent a Mariachi band for “Twin Day” during their high school’s spirit week in October 2014.
“I am Cuban and I don’t find this offensive,” said Sophie Wasmer, 18. “Without a doubt, people wouldn’t even making these comments if it wasn’t because of social media. … Even girls I sit at lunch with are antagonizing us. If she [Morales] knew that six out of the seven of us were Latino, I don’t think she would’ve done that [complained].”
The Collier County Public School District expressed regret that the photo got through its yearbook vetting process.
“The picture in question is from Naples High School’s Spirit week,” the district said in a statement. “The Naples High yearbook staff has a vetting process for which all content is reviewed. If anyone on the yearbook team finds a picture questionable, the yearbook sponsor brings it forward to Naples High Principal Kevin Saba. That regrettably did not happen in this case.”
In the statement, Saba added, “We regret if any Golden Eagle student, parent, or community member found it offensive. It was certainly not our intent.”
Wasmer said she was surprised to learn via Twitter that the photo was causing so much controversy.
“It looks like we were ‘Crossing the border, being Mexican,’ and that’s not how we wanted it interpreted,” Wasmer said. “Our intention was never to offend anyone. … I’m not really angered by it, but I just want to get over it, pretty much. It was just blown out of proportion.”
Morales said she hoped to enter into a career that combats what she feels is offensive behavior, such as the yearbook image.
“It would be amazing to do that,” Morales told WFTS-TV. “To … make an impact on the world because there is so much inequality in it. It would be awesome to make a change.”
Morales did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for additional comment.
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