Prep School’s First Female Black Student President Forced To Resign Over ‘Offensive’ Photos

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Earlier this year at a prestigious Lawrenceville prep school in New Jersey, the former black student body president Maya Peterson was forced to resign following a series of photos that appeared on the internet. In the photos, she dressed and posed to symbolize what she describes as the typical white male student at the school.

In the photo above, the Lawrenceville student is wearing L.L. Bean duck boots and a Yale University sweatshirt while holding a hockey stick to represent what Peterson says is the typical ‘Lawrenceville boi.’ Peterson has also added hashtags to her photos such as ‘#romney2016,’ ‘#confederate,’ and ‘#peakedinhighschool.’

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Peterson reveals that the photographs were meant to only be a joke in response to students’ complaints about her senior photos in which she and 10 other African American friends raised their fists in a ‘Black Power’ salute. Peterson said:

‘I understand why I hurt people’s feelings, but I didn’t become president to make sure rich white guys had more representation on campus. Let’s be honest. They’re not the ones that feel uncomfortable here.’ [source]

Some of Peterson’s classmates didn’t find humor in the photos. One student commented:

‘You’re the student body president, and you’re mocking and blatantly insulting a large group of the school’s male population.’ [source]

Upon seeing the comment, Peterson responded more passionately:

‘Yes, I am making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians. If that’s a large portion of the school’s male population, then I think the issue is not with my bringing attention to it in a lighthearted way, but rather why no one has brought attention to it before…’ [source]

In March – three weeks after the photos were posted to social media websites – administrators notified Peterson that she would face disciplinary action if she didn’t step down from her student body president position.

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In the Lawrenceville student paper, Dean of Students Nancy Thomas said:

“It was not fitting of a student leader to make comments mocking members of the community.” [source]

This wouldn’t be the first time Peterson rubbed her classmates the wrong way. After President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, Peterson expressed how proud she was that an African American was president in a Facebook post. She wrote:

‘As a black and Latino, gay woman in the United States of America, today is a momentous day. I’m sorry to all the rich white men who have failed to elect a president that endorses their greed.’ [source]

One of her classmates, who felt the post was racist, said:

‘I’m gonna have to assume from your political beliefs and what you’ve said that you do not pay for your Lawrenceville tuition in its entirety. But do you know who pays for that? Yeah, that would be all those greedy white men who actually worked for their fortune, not relied on the government to support them. Just saying.’ [source]

Peterson’s family has paid full tuition at Lawrenceville.

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Originally, Peterson’s election as student body president concerned many of her classmates because they felt she would alienate a large portion of the student body. Soon after she was elected, an anonymous student sent pictures of Peterson smoking pot to school officials.

One former student, identified only as David, said that Peterson’s photos and attitude ‘violated the spirit of the Lawrenceville community.’

‘It was hateful. It wasn’t inclusive. When I think of Maya Peterson, I don’t think of someone who is an avid proponent of progress or of inclusiveness. I think of someone who is hateful. She had a hateful spirit.’ [source]

What do you think of Peterson’s actions? Do you think the school was right to force the student body president to resign?