COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – Two South Florida high school students have been suspended after a distasteful sign they were holding in a prom proposal picture was placed on the internet.
The father of one of the students holding the sign said it was an unfortunate inside joke that was never meant to be seen on social media.
Through their parents, all the girls have apologized.
Yahoo! featured the sign in an article titled, "Here's how not to ask your black friend to prom."
The picture shows three students, two of which are from Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, holding a sign that reads, "You may be picking cotton, but we're picking you to go to prom with us."
According to Yahoo!, the picture was made public via a tweet from Jon Aro, a former student at the school. Aro grabbed a screenshot of the photo from a friend's Instagram page.
The father of the girl on the right of the picture told Local 10 News that it was an inside joke made to the girl in the middle who was originally not going to prom. The father said the girl in the middle, a friend of the other two who is homeschooled, is the heir to her grandmother's cotton farm in Alabama.
"They really want to apologize for their extremely poor choice of words in this situation," said a father of another student. "They would like to take it back. They would like to find a different way to express this invitation to prom."
The girls who attend Monarch have been suspended until the investigation into the incident is completed.
A Broward County Public Schools spokeswoman said the district is working with the administration at Monarch High School and the students and their families regarding this matter.
"Broward County Public Schools is proud of its diverse student population and community," district spokeswoman Tracy Clark said. "Our district is committed to providing learning environments that foster inclusion and respect."
One of the fathers told Local 10 he understands the controversy over the sign and why it would be seem by some to be racist. However, he said there was never a malicious intent and now the girls are afraid to attend the prom.
The other father said he hopes everyone learns the true story about the sign and how sorry the students are over the matter.
"There have been consequences," he said. "We understand the reality of that, but the girls really want people to know what the truth is behind this."
Students at the school who spoke to Local 10 News on Friday said they believed the suspension was too harsh and that they didn't believe the girls had any malicious intent with the sign.