PALM CITY, Fla. (CBS12) — The Martin County School District says a photo showing a group of six students holding up a letter to spell out a racial slur in front of a school is authentic.
"Complete shock," said district spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo, on Tuesday afternoon.
A parent of a student at Hidden Oaks Middle School in Palm City first reported the photo to the school district.
The photo is of six middle school students posing with large, colorful letters spelling out the N-word. Screenshots of the post began circulating within hours on Facebook.
In an interview with CBS12 News Tuesday morning, a district spokesperson spelled out its zero-tolerance policy for harmful and discriminatory behavior by students.
DeShazo said the students involved could face the highest level of punishment possible under the student code of conduct, a punishment that could extend into next year.
"We don't tolerate this," said DeShazo.
The district said the photo came from an annual art project involving 3D letters from the names of students. In this incident, the students rearranged the letters to spell out the racially insensitive word.
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District officials told CBS12 News Treasure Coast reporter Denise Sawyer the photo does appear to have been taken on school property.
Hidden Oaks parents spoke out Tuesday morning, condemning the behavior depicted in this photo.
One family saying their middle-school-aged daughter was deeply hurt by the image.