Black Student-President at Nation’s Most Expensive Prep School Is Forced to Resign After ‘Offensive’ Photographs of Her Mocking ‘Typical White Classmates’ Emerge
James King, Daily Mail (London), July 1, 2014
The former black student body president at a pricey New Jersey prep school was forced to resign from her leadership position earlier this year after she posted a series of photos on the Internet, in which she is seen dressed as what she describes to be the typical male, white student at the school.
In the photos, former Lawrenceville School Student Body President Maya Peterson is seen wearing L.L. Bean duck boots, a Yale University sweatshirt and is holding a hockey stick, which she says is representative of the typical ‘Lawrenceville boi.’
In addition to the photos, she added hashtags like ‘#romney2016,’ ‘#confederate,’ and ‘#peakedinhighschool.’
In a lengthy article on the Buzzfeed website, Peterson explains that the photos were meant as a joke in response to complaints made by students about her senior photos, in which she and 10 friends–all of whom were black–are seen raising their fists in a ‘Black Power’ salute.
‘I understand why I hurt people’s feelings, but I didn’t become president to make sure rich white guys had more representation on campus,’ she told the website. ‘Let’s be honest. They’re not the ones that feel uncomfortable here.’
Some of Peterson’s classmates, however, didn’t see the humor in her ‘racist’ photos.
‘You’re the student body president, and you’re mocking and blatantly insulting a large group of the school’s male population,’ one student commented on the photo.
Peterson’s response to the comment only made things worse.
‘Yes, I am making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians,’ Peterson responded. ‘If that’s a large portion of the school’s male population, then I think the issue is not with my bringing attention to it in a lighthearted way, but rather why no one has brought attention to it before…’
In March, about three weeks after posting the photos on social media websites, administrators at the $53,000 per year school–the most expensive high school in the country–told her that she would face disciplinary action if she did not resign from her position as student body president.
Both students and faculty members felt the images were offensive, and that ‘it was not fitting of a student leader to make comments mocking members of the community,’ Dean of Students Nancy Thomas told the Lawrenceville student paper.
Peterson’s take on race has irritated her classmates in the past, as well.
In 2012, following the re-election of President Barack Obama, Peterson wrote on Facebook about how proud she was that an African-American was president–and threw in a sarcastic jab at white people.
‘As a black and Latino, gay woman in the United States of America, today is a momentous day,’ she wrote. ‘I’m sorry to all the rich white men who have failed to elect a president that endorses their greed.’
Some of her classmates felt the Facebook post was racist.
‘I’m gonna have to assume from your political beliefs and what you’ve said that you do not pay for your Lawrenceville tuition in its entirety,’ one student wrote. ‘But do you know who pays for that? Yeah, that would be all those greedy white men who actually worked for their fortune, not relied on the government to support them. Just saying.’
Peterson’s family paid full tuition at the school.
Peterson’s getting elected student body president worried many of her classmates, as they believed she was alienating a large portion of the student body with her controversial comments about white classmates.
Shortly after her election, an anonymous student sent photos of Peterson smoking marijuana to school officials. The school received several other complaints about Peterson, including charges that she posted racist comments on Twitter about a fellow student who was a Sikh.
One former student said Peterson’s photos–and overall attitude, ‘violated the spirit of the Lawrenceville community.’
‘It was hateful. It wasn’t inclusive,’ the student, identified only as David, said. ‘When I think of Maya Peterson, I don’t think of someone who is an avid proponent of progress or of inclusiveness. I think of someone who is hateful. She had a hateful spirit.’