NASHVILLE, NC -- There's growing anger over a controversial picture of school-age girls wearing white hats and white shirts.
Parents and community members in Rocky Mount, North Carolina say the teens were dressed like KKK members and say their concerns have been ignored.
The controversy first emerged at an already emotional time. The image was posted in November in the wake of the controversial grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri.
The timing only magnified the anger about what many in Rocky Mount believe is a KKK-inspired picture taken by a group of Nash Central High School students.
With racial tensions simmering, parents and community members packed the Nash Rocky Mount School System auditorium Monday evening. Those who couldn't fit inside stood faithfully in the hallway. They were anxiously waiting to sound off to the school board about the controversial photo from Instagram.
"The incident of the young women posing as KKK members was a threat to our children and community", Rocky Mount parent Monica Gilmore told the board.
The Instagram picture was posted over Thanksgiving break. It featured six white female students from Nash Central High wearing white shirts and white cone-shaped hats, which are similar to KKK costumes.
The girls pointed their fingers at the camera like a gun. The picture was taken after school hours and off campus, but many at the meeting say when and where the picture was taken is irrelevant. Given the state's painful history of racial strife and established KKK groups, they want the girls punished. They say they feel ignored by the board.
"It seems to be the opinion of this school district that if we are offended, to shut up and be quiet," said Rocky Mount resident Bronson Williams.
Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone attended the meeting in an effort to help reduce the tensions.
"In my opinion, I saw no laws that were violated," Stone said.
The Sheriff said his department conducted an investigation, and questioned the girls and their parents. The Sheriff's Department probe came in addition to an investigation by the school system.
"You've got to trust us to know that we'll work with these wonderful people on the board to do what is right for the children of this school system," said board member Wayne Doll. "I hope you'll know that."
However, many at the meeting said they don't know that for sure. They're calling for more transparency in the investigation and new programs about tolerance school system wide.
Photo of teens wearing KKK-like outfits angers many in North Carolina