Local News

Debate continues over controversial Instagram photo

Posted May 7, 2015 9:28 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2015 4:07 p.m. EDT

— The heated debate over a picture taken by a student at East Chapel Hill High School continued Thursday evening at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board meeting.

The picture, taken during a school trip to the Gettysburg National Battlefield, shows two students holding Confederate flags with the caption “South will rise.” The photo was uploaded to the picture and video-sharing mobile app Instagram.

A comment on the photo reading “Already bought my first slave” also drew criticism from many students and parents at the school, including Ronald Creatore, the father of the girl who posted the photo.

Creatore spoke at the meeting Thursday while holding a textbook.

"The Confederate flag appears three times in a book being used in our school system," he said.

Other speakers suggested outrage over the incident was overblown, and that the students involved have been under attack. Frank McBride related the situation to a bonfire.

"This one is shedding much more heat than light," he said. "And far worse, the fuel we are throwing on this bonfire is our own children."

A spokesman for the school system confirmed that the flags in the photo are owned by East Chapel Hill High School and have been used in reenactments for several years.

Others who stepped in front of the crowded meeting room called for conversation.

"We you see, we have a very diverse crowd here tonight," said Robert Campbell, a minister. "But how often do we come together as a community to discuss the issues before us. Racism is still alive. How do we deal with it as residents of this great community?"

Creatore’s daughter posted an apology, saying the photo was not intended to offend:

"I'm sorry that my picture offended people and especially since my initial caption (that I changed once I realized people took it seriously), but I'm currently on the Civil War trip learning about the history of our country and this just so happens to be a pretty (expletive) important part of it. We were reenacting Pickett's charge in which the South lost 85% of their soldiers. These aren't the Confederate flags in fact, they're the North Carolina regimental flags. 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. Thanks though."

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Tom Forcella told WRAL Wednesday that the students are not likely to be punished because it does not fall under the system’s definition of cyberbullying.

He also said the school system needs to do a better job of giving students who go on the trip more context to "help them understand what the meaning of different symbols are." A school system spokesman said there are currently no planned changes for the class.

Creatore asked for some understanding for his daughter.

"I want the person who has a 17-year-old who has never had never make a mistake to be the one to judge her," he said.