Students at Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland were caught trading printouts of a racist meme during their lunch hour.

Officials discovered students passing around golden “n-word” passes last Friday, according to WJLA. In their digital form, the passes are a meme allowing people with them in their possession to use the word "n****r."

There were about 15 passes circulating around the school; three students from a racially "mixed group" were found to be the ones who first began handing them out.

Principal Brandice Heckert assured the community the students responsible would be disciplined but would not specify how.

“I am deeply disappointed and appalled that any student in our school would choose to engage in such a racist, hateful act,” she wrote in a letter to parents. “I made a promise to all students that I would not ignore acts of intolerance and hatred. Behavior that is disrespectful and/or intolerant will not be accepted.”

Gavin Norman, a friend of one the punished students, said those responsible for the passes received suspensions ranging from one to six days. Norman said he was given detention because he refused to “snitch” on his buddies. The teen insists the passes were a joke “that maybe went a tiny bit too far.”

“No one was trying to offend anyone, no one was saying the actual word, and no one thought it was okay to say the actual word,” he added. He believes school officials were too harsh on his friends.

"It should have been a one day suspension at the most, just protocol for schools, but it ended up being a lot more than that," Norman said.

This is the second racist incident at Churchill High in less than a week.

Three days before the passes were recovered, a swastika was found drawn on a desk, according to Patch.

A PTSA meeting covering “tolerance, racism, and bias” is scheduled for February 19.

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