Police investigated after a teenage girl from Hurricane High School appeared in a photo posted Monday to the social media site Instagram that included a racial epithet.
The girl, according to a description from KUTV-Channel 2, had X’s over her eyes and had pretended to hang herself. The caption read “Happy national n----- day.”
A second teenage girl has since been implicated in the post, though a Hurricane police spokesman hasn’t confirmed her role. The post, made on the holiday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr., is proving to have consequences in and out of Hurricane.
“Really, this has spread across the nation,” police spokesman Ken Thompson said Friday. “There’s been phone calls from Virginia. People from New York have made comments on it. It’s just been shared over and over and over again.”
Thompson said the girls have received threats over the post.
“I don’t know that anybody’s pleased with it,” Thompson said. “I haven’t seen one positive comment in all the ones that I’ve read.”
Thompson said the Instagram post was reported to police as a possible hate crime. Detectives interviewed the teens, he said. The matter has been referred both to the Washington County prosecutor for possible charges. The FBI, which investigates civil rights offenses, has been notified, too, Thompson said.
Although the post was not made at school, Hurricane High School’s principal issued a statement via his own Instagram video to condemn the students’ post and urging everyone to reflect on the life and lessons of King.
On Friday, Washington County School District spokesman Steven Dunham said he couldn’t disclose whether the two students have been attending classes this week. However, Dunham said, the district is reviewing its policies to determine whether it can or should take action against the students to ensure Hurricane High School remains safe and free from discrimination or harassment.
“We’re looking at that to ensure we’re providing a safe opportunity for all of our students,” Dunham said.
The offending post apparently was made at the workplace of one of the girls, and her employer told KUTV she has been fired.
Some 300 miles to the north, the post caught the attention of Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, who called it “disgusting” and said the girls’ parents also should be held accountable.
The story has moved outside of Utah, too. Columnist and activist Shaun King, whose Twitter profile describes him as living in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Kentucky, shared the story with his followers.
Correction at 2:02 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2018: An earlier version of this story referred to the Hurricane High School principal as female instead of male.