Who does? High school students!
Georgia high school senior Paris Gray landed herself in some hot H2O recently when school officials discovered that her yearbook quote, which included a seemingly nonsensical list of chemical elements, was actually a coded message. She wrote: “When the going gets tough, just remember to Barium, Carbon, Potassium, Thorium, Astatine, Arsenic, Sulfur, Uranium, Phosphorus,” Atlanta’s WSB-TV 2 reported.
Dig up your old periodic table from 10th grade chemistry — or, you know, Google it — and you’ll find that the abbreviations of those elements spell out “Back that a** up.” The phrase was made famous by the catchy, if profane, 1999 rap hit actually called “Back That A** Up.”
To me, that’s mischief worthy of a Hydrogen Arsenic Hydrogen Arsenic — Har Har! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
But here’s what turns this story from chuckle-worthy to cringe-worthy. Gray said she was told she would not be allowed to participate in a senior walk or give a speech at Mundy’s Mill High School’s graduation — the latter was an honor she was selected for after auditioning.
Thankfully, school officials have apparently since reversed their decision, with one administrator telling her, in front of a TV news camera, that she would now have the opportunity to deliver “the most powerful, inspirational speech” in her high school’s history.
It comes as no surprise that school officials changed their minds, given how quickly Gray’s story was picked up by the local and national news media, with outlets like Slate calling Gray’s initial penalty “an outrageous perversion of justice.”
That criticism may be a bit too strong — “outrageous perversion of justice” is better suited to describe, say, the pregnant woman sentenced to death in Sudan for being Christian — but I agree that penalizing Gray for a fairly harmless and somewhat brainy joke was a dumb move. With all the challenges facing educators these days, you’d think folks at Gray’s school would have better things to worry about. (Check out the Mundy’s Mill High School Accountability Report Card here.)
It’s worth noting that Gray isn’t the first to use the periodic table to sneak an off-color message into her school yearbook. Last year, as The Huffington Post reported, a yearbook photo posted to Reddit showed a young woman named Jessica Lee smiling above a quote that read “Fluorine uranium carbon potassium bismuth technetium helium sulfur germanium thulium oxygen neon yttrium.” I’ll let you look that one up for yourself since this is a family website.
But back to Gray. By all accounts, the now-relieved senior has a bright future ahead of her — this fall, she’s heading to Tennessee State University to major in, ahem, communications.
Screengrab of WSB-TV report via DrudgeReportMedia.