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‘Inappropriate and racist message:’ Officials condemn picture showing segregated water fountains inside Franklin H.S.

FRANKLIN -- A racist message displayed inside Franklin High School on Monday, Jan . 22 and posted on social media has prompted school officials to take action. Students are now speaking out about the racial climate in the school.

A water fountain pictured in the social media post may be a gift from the class of 2013, but the words above it are reminiscent of a pre-civil rights era. The photo shows two water fountains in one of the school's hallways labeled "white" and "colored."

Jacob Romanski snapped a photo of it and went straight to administrators.

"I was kind of sad, mad, angry," Romanski said. "It's unacceptable."

Romanski said he is fed up with the bigotry he has seen occur in the past. He wanted to expose what is happening.

Jacob Romanski

"This picture is kind of opening people's eyes to what the students are seeing," Romanski said. "People say the 'n' word. They throw that around. There's also other discriminatory words they use such as the 'r' word."

After Romanski posted it on social media, it spread like wildfire -- even reaching Bria Smith, a student who is out of the country on a trip.

"There have been lots of situations where we have been racially profiled," said  Smith. "It's kind of scary to go to a school where people still have the mindset."

Bria Smith

Amber Smith

Smith asked her sister to help share the post to help create a conversation about awareness and acceptance. As an alum of Franklin High School, she said prejudice among students does happen.

"I know the whole school is not bad; the whole city of Franklin is not bad. It's just individuals that taken this stuff lightly," said Amber Smith. "It's not funny. It hurts people."

School officials said they were able to identify the person responsible -- and are addressing the student's behavior.

Franklin High School

Here is the complete message from Franklin High School Principal Michael Vuolo:

"Monday afternoon, an inappropriate and racist message was displayed at Franklin High School. Administration was able to identify the individual responsible and address that student’s behavior.

This act was in no way part of any school project, curriculum, or initiative. This was an individual act of student behavior. Franklin High School administration is aware of a photo showing this racist imagery and comments circulating on social media in and outside of our community. Campus safety is a priority. We work closely with the Franklin Police Department to ensure our community is safe.

Franklin High School values each and every one of our students. This act of intolerance by an individual does not represent the values of Franklin High School or the approximately 1700 people who teach and learn here every day. The display was offensive, hurtful, and wrong. As a school community, we have a responsibility to treat one another with kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion.

Our entire staff will continue to work to address student well-being. Student services and administrative staff are available for students and parents to talk with; please contact the high school office at 414-423-4640."

Below is a statement from the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Wisconsin and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation:

"It has been reported and acknowledged that there was a posting of "White" and "Colored" signs over a set of school water fountains. While we appreciate that administrators issued a statement disavowing this despicable action, the incident demonstrates the need for the school and the district to take immediate and ongoing action to make the school more inclusive and respectful of different cultures.

Unfortunately, Franklin High School, like many schools and districts, does not recognize or celebrate the federal holiday recognizing the achievements of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We ask that the district consider changing that policy. Today’s action highlights the urgency of taking actions to ensure that the school celebrates tolerance and inclusion as part of its curriculum and culture."