All of the yearbooks that had been distributed at the Richmond Early College High School near Rockingham have been taken back by the school after some senior quotes were deemed controversial, the school system says.
Graduating students at the 10-year-old school, which has 259 students, were allowed to share a quote under their picture in the yearbook. After the book was published, officials in the school and district administration found several of the quotes inappropriate, including one credited to President Donald Trump, Richmond County school district spokeswoman Ashley-Michelle Thublin said.
The Trump quote, which said “Build that wall,” has been criticized on social media by some students and others who called it racist and hurtful to classmates, some of whom are minorities. After RECHS announced on its Facebook page that it had discovered the comments, many people voiced their opinions both for and against the decision to cancel the book.
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Only 22 yearbooks had been pre-ordered, and only a handful had been distributed before the quotes were discovered by Principal Tonya Waddell, Thublin said. Those books were taken back the same morning, and the rest were not distributed, she said.
None of the students were disciplined for the quotes, Thublin said. The school and district administration felt several of the quotes submitted by students were inappropriate, Thublin said.
Specific examples were not provided.
According to state Department of Public Instruction data, in the 2015-2016 school year, about 65.5 percent of RECHS students were white, about 22.7 percent were Hispanic, about 4.6 percent were black and about 7.3 percent were in other minority groups.
“As a district, we do not and will not tolerate inappropriate conduct toward any of our students,” the school district’s post said. “In each situation, our goal is to provide for the well-being of all of our students and prevent recurrences of inappropriate conduct.”
The books cost between $30 and $39, depending on how early they were bought. After the publishing company was contacted about the possibility of reprinting them, it was decided that there would not be enough time to distribute a new version before school lets out for the summer on May 18, Thublin said.
Everyone who had paid for a yearbook will be fully reimbursed, she said. The school system has not yet responded to an inquiry about how the cost of printing will be paid.
On Facebook, some criticized the quote but others defended the student’s right to share whatever quote she wanted.
Justin Gardner, whose Facebook profile says he lives in Rockingham, commented on the school system’s post, saying, “What a joke. i (sic) want you to explain to me what was racist ? A wall?”
Kayla Sierra Hicks, whose profile says that she attends Richmond Community College, posted, “If one doesn’t know how to handle something that differs from their opinion other than complain about it while putting others down at the same time, you shouldn’t be graduating high school or allowed to be in this world on your own.”
Efforts to reach the student who posted the “wall” comments were unsuccessful.