One of the teens suspended from the Desert Vista High School in Arizona has apologized for the photo showing her and five classmates wearing black T-shirts spelling out a racial slur.
Rachel Steigerwald, seen wearing the gold letter R for her "Class of 2016" senior yearbook photo, attended a rally with civil rights groups on Monday where she apologized in front of a crowd and media, said she's not racist.
“I have come here to say that I am incredibly, incredibly sorry,” she said according to AZcentral.com. “I have love for everyone in my heart. I am not a racist and I'm asking everyone for forgiveness.”
According to Steigerwald, the slur, which had two letters marked out using asterisks, was meant for the boyfriend, who is black, of one of the teens.
Students at Desert Vista High School, still reeling from the photo’s fallout, and groups such as the Black Student Union have expressed that the picture does represent their school.
The high school, which is 66% white and 7% black, according to U.S. News & World Report's Best High Schools 2015, held a diversity workshop for some students on Monday, according to the Arizona Republic.
However others are calling for a harsher punishment, and social media users have started an online petition at change.org, demanding that the six teens, who are seen smiling in the photo, be expelled. As of Tuesday, the petition had more than 43,000 signatures.
The petition also criticizes Principal Christine Barela of Desert Vista High School, for not punishing the teens further and demands that she resign.