ANDERSON, S.C. – Four South Carolina high school students have been punished for sharing a picture on social media that appears to advocate sexual assault.
The image shows the Westside High School students spelling the word "rape" with letters spray painted on their chests. The incident occurred Friday at a football game during the school's annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Every touchdown from that game would also benefit St. Jude Children's Hospital through the program "Touchdown Against Cancer."
Kyle Newton, Director of External Affairs for Anderson School District Five, told CNN in an email that the four students were originally part of a larger group that had spray painted letters to spell out the words "bump cancer" on their chests. The students then "essentially started playing scrabble" and moved around to spell different words with those letters, Newton told CNN.
One of the words was "rape."
The picture was shared on Snapchat with the caption "What we do to Daniel," referring to their opponents, Daniel High School.
Newton told CNN that Westside principal Kory Roberts "was informed later that night" of the incident and "worked to identify the students." The four teens and their parents were called in Monday morning and
"informed of their punishment." Roberts did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
Anderson 5 Citizens for Quality Education, a "non-partisan group of concerned parents, students, and citizens" from the school district, shared the photo on its Facebook page with a long caption denouncing it.
Part of the caption read: "The juxtaposition of a violent message with the breast cancer awareness symbology is of particular concern. The assumption these young men seem to have made is that their position and privilege allows them to make 'jokes' about rape as a viable threat."
Newton told CNN the students have been punished but "not expelled." He would not give details of their punishment, and the school district has not released their names. Newton did confirm that two of the students are sophomores, and the other two are seniors.
Newton also told CNN that the incident "was particularly disappointing" since it took place during a fundraiser for cancer survivors and awareness.
"At best, what they did was offensive - at worst it could be traumatic for those who have suffered sexual assault," Newton told CNN. "There is no place in any school or any community for those types of actions."