School district officials were investigating a photo circulating on social media on Wednesday of a group of cheerleaders from Redlands East Valley High School posing in what appeared to be gang attire.
The picture showed some of the girls had stuffed their shirts to look pregnant, while others flashed gang signs and were holding simulated weapons.
Reaction to the photo was mixed.
One parent commented “it's really sad,” after viewing the photo on Facebook.
Another parent thought it was just a harmless joke.
"I think they're just being teenagers, having fun, being silly," parent Sherry Garcia said.
Classmates who knew some of the students in the photo said they didn't believe the girls intended any harm, saying they were all nice kids and were not trying to be mean.
But the district superintendent was taking the matter seriously and put the squad on hiatus while the incident was investigated.
"I find this picture offensive, and this type of depiction will not be tolerated," Redlands Unified School District Superintendent Lori Rhodes said in a statement. "I apologize that any Redland USD student organization would be involved in an activity of this type."
The photo was taken during what was called a team-building exercise, designed to "build team spirit and camaraderie in a positive manner," according to the Rhodes.
"They should never demean, insult, or portray negative stereotypes, as done in this photo," Rhodes said.
Rhodes promised to investigate the circumstances surrounding the photo and said appropriate action would be taken.