A Georgia high school has issued an apology and a promise to reprint 2020 yearbooks after an “inappropriate” photo featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. and racist language made it into the pages.
Students at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee were shocked to find a photoshopped image of the famed civil rights leader “posing” next to a young man holding a notebook that read, “Official N-Word Pass.”
“I’m excited for this yearbook. I get to see all the exciting memories and I open the book and I see this. And it’s like, wow. It hurts me to the core,” senior Aaliyah Williams told ABC affiliate WSB. “Of everything that’s going on right now, that shouldn’t be a joke. It shouldn’t be a joke right now. It’s nothing to play around with.”
Senior Milan Broughton added to CBS affiliate WGCL: “It was very disrespectful. He basically reduced this amazing civil rights leader who did a lot for the black community.”
In a letter to families and staff members, Collins Principal Kerensa Wing called the image “inappropriate and racist” and “unacceptable,” and that the school was investigating who submitted the photo and how it managed to go unaddressed before the yearbooks went to print.
Wing said an initial investigation found that some pages were left unfinished before the school transitioned to digital learning because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the yearbook company replaced those pages with submitted senior selfies. She confirmed the photo was submitted by the yearbook staff, and that school officials were meeting with those involved.
“I know offensive words and sentiments like the ones included in this photo are hurtful and you have my full apology this has happened,” she said. “I am disappointed in the students involved, as this is not who we are at Collins Hill High School and does not reflect our values and beliefs.”
While Wing initially said the school would hand out stickers of a replacement photo to all who purchased a yearbook, she later said all yearbooks would be recalled and replaced with new, revised ones.
“I share your anger and frustration with this situation and you have my commitment that we will continue to work diligently to overcome this act of racism and to address the processes that allowed this to occur,” she wrote. “While we cannot change the past, we can continue our work to build a more inclusive school community that focuses on unity, acceptance, understanding, tolerance, and hope. That beings with stating our clear stance against racism and social injustice and our willingness to work with our parents and students to stamp out racism.”
The decision comes after a petition to reprint the yearbooks instead of just issuing stickers received nearly 1,000 signatures.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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