JACKSON — A picture taken by a diverse group of Jackson Liberty High School students is causing a stir in the community.

The picture shows 16 students facing the camera with lettered shirts that spell out “WE R ALL NI##AS” — with two of the shirts in the last word displaying paw prints instead of letters, an apparent representation of the slang version of a slur used to demean black people.

Two of the students in the photograph are black.

The photo circulated on social media Friday, prompting the principal to address the controversy in a letter to parents.

Some parents, however, don’t believe administrators have gone far enough in disciplining students.

Principal Maureen Butler said administrators spoke to the students and she does “not believe there was any malice or disrespect in the hearts of any of the students involved.”

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"I did want you to know that we remain confident that the spirit of unity, tolerance and respect among our Liberty Lion family is alive and well,” she adds.

“As school administrators and parents, we have the wisdom of age and experience and we can appreciate the impact of certain types of rhetoric or word choices. I believe we have a responsibility to talk to our young men and women about how their words and actions can be perceived, and the consequences of those perceptions.”

The variant pronunciation and spelling of the racial slur often appears in hip-hop and pop culture, but is still considered by many to be offensive.

The high school has about 1,300 students; less than 100 are black.

Butler’s letter says the school will be having "conversations" about words and actions "in the days and weeks to come here at Liberty, and I encourage you to have the same conversations at home.”

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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