Students at a Colorado high school posed with the Confederate flag and posted the photo to social media. (Photo: KDVR)
High school seniors who posed for a prom photo holding guns and the Confederate flag are facing scrutiny this week after posting the image to social media.
Before heading to Saturday’s prom at Chaparral High School in Parker, Colo., a group of seniors gathered with some of their parents to take pictures. One of the photos, which was later posted to a student’s Facebook page, featured three boys holding the Confederate flag and two of the five girls holding guns.
After the photo made national headlines, one girl in the photo issued a public apology. “It’s hard to say sorry [but] that’s the only thing that can come out of my mouth right now,” the unidentified student told Fox-31 news. “I feel like there should be a better word for it.”
The student claims she got caught up in the excitement and fell victim to peer pressure. “I feel everyone struggles with trying to do the right thing at the right time,” she said. “It was just difficult for me to voice that and stop what was going on.”
That girl’s date was a boy who was also in the photo and who attends a different high school, and his mother spoke with Yahoo Parenting on the condition of anonymity. She wasn’t present for the photo shoot, she says, and she questions the logic of the parents who were. “My son told me that all of a sudden, the girl whose house they were at to take the pictures grabbed the guns and the flag, and the parents snapped the pictures,” she says. “Why didn’t the parents stand up and say, ‘Guys, this is wrong’? Do you know what that flag means? Do you know the history behind it?’ It would have been a teaching moment.”
The mother says that she regrets not having been there for the photo shoot but that she has eight kids and was at an event for one of her other children. She’s not entirely surprised by the photo, she says, although she is disappointed. “When my son attended that school, he was hanging out with boys who think it’s cool to be on the rebellious side, and they stand for a ‘pro-America’ type of thing,” she says. “I had previously seen one of the kids he hangs out with hanging that flag in the back of his truck, and we warned our son. We said, ‘Do you know what this means?’ and he said, ‘It just means pro-country, Southern stuff,’ and we said, ‘No, it means a lot more than that — it can be considered racist, and it’s going to bring out a lot of emotions, so don’t go close to that.’”
Seeing her son in the photo is “mortifying,” the mother says. “It’s heartbreaking because it’s against everything my husband and I stand for,” she says. “My son has helped me out at the homeless shelter where I volunteer, and he knows that not all of America is white suburbia. We don’t stand for any of this.”
Like her son’s date, this mother believes peer pressure played a big part in her son’s poor decision making. Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, says the excitement of the prom might have made these students especially prone to peer pressure. “Parents should warn kids about times when they’re most at-risk of getting caught up in the moment and making a bad choice. When we’re feeling excited, we’re more likely to overlook the risks we’re taking,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “So it’s no wonder that the teens, who were probably really excited about prom, struggled to think clearly enough to recognize their poor choices.”
Once a questionable decision is made, it’s important that parents try to make the best of a bad situation. “If your teen makes a mistake, it’s essential that you turn it into a learning opportunity. Discuss what factors led to that poor choice, and develop a plan to prevent something like that from happening again,” she says. “If possible, help your teen make amends. Performing a community service project, making an apology, and doing something kind for [those affected by your child’s poor decision] are ways to try and repair a little bit of the damage that may have been done.”
As for her child’s punishment, the mother whom Yahoo Parenting spoke with says she’s still deciding. “But the social repercussions — if a college doesn’t accept him or he’s not allowed to graduate — I won’t fight that,” she says. “It was supposed to be a picture that would remain private, but that’s not how social media works, so repercussions will probably happen.”
The biggest lesson this mother hopes all the students in the picture will learn is compassion. “The people in our area are very sheltered, and I think they don’t truly grasp that there are people out there who are still feeling the pain of slavery,” she says. “To be flying this flag, it’s going to bring out pain. Compassion is compassion — there are people hurting over this image. I think we should tuck it away and not bring it out unless it’s a history lesson.”