CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A social media post of two students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district waving Confederate flags at Gettysburg led to a heated news conference Wednesday.
Some parents in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district want school officials to take action after a controversial Instagram post and comment appeared after a school field trip to Gettysburg.
The picture, which was posted on Instagram, shows two students holding Confederate flags with the caption, “South will rise.”
An additional comment that reads, “Already bought my first slave,” was also made in reference to the photo.
At a news conference Wednesday, the executive director of the North Carolina NAACP said she was “deeply troubled” by the post on Instagram.
“But is simply one of many patterns that we are seeing across the state,” said Michelle Laws, a Chapel Hill native.
And Wanda Hunter, who said she spoke on behalf of white members of the community, said she was “deeply disappointed with the behavior of these, our white students.”
“The deeper disappointment is we know these girls are not a few bad apples, but they are representative of what the dominant white culture teaches,” Hunter said.
But the father of one of the girls, Ron Creatore of Chapel Hill, defended his daughter in some heated moments at the news conference.
“My daughter was not raised in an environment of hate,” he said.
Creatore said his daughter was one of two girls in the photograph holding a Confederate flag.
Creatore said the girls were part of a history class of about 100 students visiting Gettysburg. Creatore said the class was re-enacting Pickett’s charge, the famous, and futile, Confederate charge on the third and final day of the battle.
Creatore said that each student had a number, and that when the teacher called out their number they had to fall dead. The remaining students were responsible for grabbing any fallen flags and continuing forward.
“My daughter and the other girl in the photograph were the last two students standing,” Creatore said.
Creatore said the girls have apologized “and nobody has accepted that apology.”
“My daughter is very upset,” Creatore said. “This was never intended in the way it’s being perceived. In hindsight she now understands what this led to. But that was not her intention at the time she posted the photograph.
“She’s dealing with the fallout of that. But she’s also dealing with people threatening her life and calling her some unseemly names. So it’s been incredibly difficult for her.”
The school district said it took action with the students involved but would not comment on what exactly they did.
The student who posted the photo to Instagram issued an apology on April 16 saying, “I’m sorry that my picture offended people and especially my initial caption.” The apology went on to say, “I’m proud to be a part of my state and I’m sorry my photo was so offensive but I find it appropriate in that I’m honoring heroes that fought to protect their home and families.”
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ superintendent Thomas A. Forcella said in a statement:
“In the past three weeks, we have heard from many in our community who are concerned about a picture and comments posted on a social media site. We have been questioned about any consequences for the students involved.
“First, it is unlawful for us to publicly discuss these matters. It is never permissible for us to share confidential information about our students. Second, while some would say we are hiding behind the First Amendment, I would say we are standing on the First Amendment. Students are guaranteed the same rights as all citizens.
“Having said that, we agree that there is still much work to do. The implications, and sometimes unintended consequences, that arise on social networking sites need a more deliberate approach. Implicit bias does exist in all of us, regardless of our race. We need to address it directly whether it is in classrooms or in teachable moments on athletic fields, at extra-curricular events or in our school hallways.