A Creston, Iowa, couple issued a statement on Friday, apologizing for their son’s involvement in an offensive photo that has pushed the small Iowa town into a national spotlight.
“Our son recognizes his poor judgment,” Jamie and Megan Travis said in the statement.
The photo showed five people near a burning cross, wearing white, pointed hoods that resemble Ku Klux Klan garb. One person is waving a Confederate flag, and another is holding what appears to be a firearm. The photo surfaced on social media on Wednesday and has since attracted national attention.
Creston High School officials said they disciplined five students involved, but they did not publicly identify the students or specify the extent of discipline, citing student privacy laws. The coach of the school football team said the five students were removed from the team.
The Travis family publicly apologized for their son’s actions and said they support the school administration’s disciplinary decisions, including removing their son from the football team.
Below is the family’s full statement:
On behalf of the Travis Family, we sincerely apologize for the hurt and strife we have caused this community. We do not condone the behavior that was expressed in the recent photo that was disseminated throughout various media sources.
We understand that our son has conducted himself in a way that is inappropriate and has caused disruption in the community. Our son recognizes his poor judgment and respectfully asks forgiveness from his classmates, the school and the community. The photo in no way reflects our family values. Our family strongly believes that all individuals are created equally in God’s eyes.
We support Mr. Messerole, Mr. Morrison, the school board and other school officials as they impose the appropriate punishments on our son, including removing him from the football team. Additionally, we support the school as they educate our son and his classmates in helping them understand cultural diversity. As a family we have also taken measures to ensure that our son understands his actions and how they affect others.
Our goal is a peaceful resolution. We want to move forward and embrace our community in eliminating racism in Creston.
The Des Moines Register’s attempts to obtain comments from the other students’ families on Friday were unsuccessful.
On Thursday night, Creston/Orient-Macksburg head football coach Brian Morrison told The Register that lawyers have become involved in the situation.
“Litigation is what it is,” he said.
Morrison said that from his standpoint, the five students involved in the photo remained off of the football team. He could not comment on academic disciplinary action.
Creston High Principal Bill Messerole issued this statement on Friday: “I am trying to begin the healing process for all involved and will not comment further.”
Messerole had told reporters earlier that his priorities were making sure students felt comfortable coming to school in light of the photo and educating students amid the situation.
“Even though this could happen anywhere, it happened here,” Messerole said. “So we’ve got to own this and move on in a positive way.”
He plans to implement school-wide sensitivity and diversity training, among other long-term efforts.
On Friday, an attorney for the Creston Community School District, Kristy M. Latta, issued the following statement:
The Creston Community School District is committed to providing a positive and respectful learning environment for students. As an educational institution, we strive to promote civil discourse and tolerance for differing views. However, when there is a substantial disruption of or material interference with the learning environment, it is appropriate for the District to take responsive action. We are hopeful that everyone can learn from this situation as we continue working to provide our students the best educational opportunities we can.
Latta declined to comment further.
Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon said Thursday that no one has been criminally charged in connection with the photo, which, on its own, is not a crime. Local law enforcement has not received any reports of threats, violence or other crimes associated with the photo, Kenyon said.
Drake University Law Professor Mark Kende, an expert in constitutional law, has said that discipline by the school district could be an unconstitutional overreach, infringing on the students’ free speech rights, if they were pictured off school grounds and were not targeting specific people.
It’s unclear where the photo was taken, but school officials have said it was not on school property.