A Sarasota, Florida high school senior made a racist promposal sign that was shared by his girlfriend and intended prom date on her social media with added heart-eyed emojis.
Noah Crowley and Isabella Vanilli, both students at Riverview High School are also alleged by students who know the couple to have previously used racist terminology and statements that they define as “jokes.” In fact, in his apology, Crowley said it was a “joke.” His social media is largely scrubbed. But Heavy was able to locate public posts by Vinalli.
Here’s what you need to know:
1.Noah Crowley’s ‘Promposal’ to Girlfriend Isabella Vinalli, Which She Shared on Snapchat With Smiling Face & Heart Eyes Emojis, Read: ‘If I Was Black, I’d Be Picking Cotton, But I’m White, So I’m Picking U 4 Prom.’
Noah Crowley made a promposal poster with a racist “joke,” he said. In it he’s asking his girlfriend, Isabella Vinalli to prom. Vinalli then added the image to her Snapchat story and also added a couple of smiley faces with eyes-as-hearts emojis to demonstrate she loved it, apparently. It did not take long for her post to be widely shared and soon, school officials were altered. The latter action is germane because it references the Riverview High School senior prom slated for May 5.
Crowley was immediately called out for the racist sign but many called for Vinalli also to be held to task given she shared the image to social media.
In particular, people said her addition of the love emojis was a concern and reflected perhaps on her own views.
Crowley’s social media is nowhere to be found, or at least a reporter could not locate it, but Vinalli has at least three social accounts besides Snapchat; two Instagram and she posts images to the photo sharing app VSCO. Her newest Instagram, with more than 3,000 followers while set to private, allows access to public images through VSCO. And it’s on there where she has numerous recent posts of her and Crowley.
2. Sarasota Schools Officials First Described the Sign as ‘Opinion’ & ‘Racial in Nature.’ A Newer Statement Called it ‘Racist’
Riverview High School acting principal Kathy Wilks said in a robo call to parents that school officials had been made aware of the Snapchat by Vinalli Sunday night which featured Crowley’s promposal and her double heart-eyed emojis. Wilks described it in the call to parents as “racial in nature.” And a statement Monday described the content as “…one student’s opinion.”
By Tuesday, Tracey Beeker, the Sarasota County Schools spokesperson, issued a statement that described it as “the racist prom proposal created by a Riverview High School student and posted on social media.”
Beeker’s statement read in part that the promposal post has “caused incredible disruption to our school and community. We do not want the behavior of individuals to be considered the narrative of the entire school community, and we want to provide the following update regarding steps the school district is taking since the post was initially discovered.”
The school district is investigating, she said, in conjunction with school administrators, students and their parents “to determine a course of disciplinary action according to school policy.”
Beeker said that on Monday, a “diverse cross-section of students” and educators and administrators met “to talk about various issues including economic, racial, ethnic and gender disparities.” She said “students voiced their concerns about racial tensions at the school” and so the district will “more formally investigate and gather this information about these important topics” with help from Sarasota NAACP president Trevor Harvey to “facilitate a student-led conversation.”
Harvey told local media, “When we see so many heightened race relations throughout our country, our district has to take a proactive standpoint to make sure that that stuff doesn’t spill off into our schools.”
“We believe our students can be powerful voices of reason and help us fund solutions to the racial alienation that some children may feel,” Beeker wrote. “It is our goal that these roundtable discussions take place at other schools throughout the district to directly hear from students about these topics that are national in scope, but important to our community. From there, we will make resources available to our students to effectively address the issue of inequality in our schools.”
A public relations and “issues management” firm provided Sarasota County Schools with a statement from Crowley’s parents saying that while he’s apologized they wanted to “also express our most sincere apologies for the terrible words used in his ‘promposal.'”
The statement read in part that they believe their son is a “far better person than reflected in this reckless behavior.” And added they felt “compelled to share our own deep regret and serious concern about his actions.”
“After numerous familial conversations and lengthy discussions with Riverview High School administrators, we have jointly agreed that our son will not be attending any further school activities or functions, including the Prom or graduation ceremony. As a family, we truly recognize this incident is a very difficult but important life lesson and pledge to do all we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Certainly, we hope that all of the people and communities who were hurt and offended will forgive our son and family.”
The SCS district Student Social Media Guidelines states that “Using profanity, obscenity, epithets or other language that violates generally accepted norms of appropriate public discourse.”
3. Reaction on Social Media is Largely That of Outrage. A Statement Purported to be From the Student Body Condemned the Racist ‘Promposal,’ But Said School Officials Handled the Situation ‘Excellently’
But there were a handful of tweets that questioned the racist description.
Meanwhile, Riverview gun control student activists Reagan Fox and Anton Kernohan condemned the sign but in a local media report issued a statement that they said was “on behalf of Riverview’s student body,” that the wording was an “extremely inappropriate racial slur (that) has shocked the majority of the Riverview student population along with much of our administration,” the Sarasota Herald Tribune reported, ”… It is absolutely disheartening that opinions such as these are still present in current generations. It shows that racism is still alive and thriving and that there needs to be a continuation of fighting for equality to rid of this hate once and for all.”
But the paper pointed out that Fox and Kernohan lauded school administrators for the way they handled the situation, “in an excellent and appropriate manner, as they typically do with issues like this.”
Riverview administrators have gathered a group of students from each grade to “begin solving the problem of racism” within the school, they wrote.
“These divides and tensions, especially within the last few weeks, are growing and they need to be suppressed immediately,” Fox and Kernohan wrote in their release. “Hopefully, whatever solution we come up with, we will accomplish this.”
4. Riverview High School Student Erin Williams Said the School is Rife With Now-Acceptable Open & Overt Racism. A Local BLM Chapter Says School Officials Have Ignored Repeated Requests to Meet
A petition to ensure Crowley would not be permitted to attend prom was created and pointed to the now shared several thousand times Facebook post by Riverview student Erin Williams who says the school has of late been “going through a race war.”
“Riverview has been recently going through a ‘race war’ for the past couple of weeks, my best friend and I have been dealing with a girl who has been repeatedly calling us a ni**er and an ‘uneducated black bitch’ which she has openly said she was racist. Resulting in us getting in trouble by administration because they fear we’re going to put our hands on her. One administrator has even told us that ‘it’s her right to speak how she wants too.’
Williams said Crowley and others have demonstrated vile racist behaviors. She wrote that Crowley, “caused disruption besides this one where he threw a banana at a mixed boy and told him to ‘go fetch.’ And a few white boys have ganged up on a couple of black kids going to Snapchat calling them ni**ers and monkeys. All of which Riverview staff and administration knows about and has done nothing. They’re letting these kids walk freely around expressing racism and told us, ‘if you touch anyone, we will suspend you and not let you graduate.’ This is what Riverview High School is letting their students do, and basically telling us black kids to deal with it.”
Williams followed up by saying she wasn’t calling for violence but rather hoped to “shine a light on a dark situation.”
Meanwhile, the Sarasota and Manatee counties Black Lives Matter chapter said that it has written to the school board on a number of occasions in the last year and received no reply.
“BLM Manasota is concerned that today’s Sarasota County Schools media statement to parents references; ‘one personal opinion’ from one student. We have heard from several students at Sarasota High and Riverview that administrators have often been tolerant of racist aggression by white students,” the post read.
“Treating this as an isolated incident is dangerous as you are denying the very deep rooted cause of the problem here; when and why do school administrators choose to really hear the voices of black students when they are experiencing pain,” the post continued.
“Can the School Board help us understand what in the past has been done to address racial inequalities in Sarasota County,” the post asked rhetorically.
The post then references the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s award-winning series on implicit biases.
The BLM post said the studies show “Sarasota County Schools as specifically problematic when it comes to how they treat students of color.”
The Black Lives Matter Alliance Sarasota Manatee Chapter said it sent two invitations to the school board “to engage in a comprehensive conversation about race and racism when it comes to the County,” in June of 2017 and February of 2018. “We were ignored both times.”
5. Students Who Say They Know the Couple Charge This is Not an Isolated Incident & a Social Media Account Has Admitted Racist Followers
Crowley posted a statement about what he’d done. He said it was a joke gone too far.
“I want to sincerely apologize if I have offended anyone with the picture going around.”
“That was not my intention. Anyone who knows me or ____ knows that that’s not how we truly feel. It was a complete joke and it went too far. After reading the texts and Snapchats I truly see how I have offended people and I’m sorry.”
But people that say they know the couple claim this is a pattern of behavior.
This reporter had a substitute teaching credential for Sarasota County Schools for 2015 but never taught.