Collins Hill High School will print new, revised 2019-20 yearbooks after all.
On Wednesday, principal Kerensa Wing issued an apology for what she described as a “racist” and “offensive” photograph that was included in this year’s yearbook showing Martin Luther King Jr. with a hand on the shoulder of a Collins Hill High School student holding a piece of paper with “n-word pass” and the student’s name.
Initially, Wing said the school was working with the yearbook company to print a sticker to replace the photo. She said the sticker would be mailed to all who purchased a yearbook and that the photo had been altered in the yearbooks that had not yet been distributed in an effort to block it.
However, she followed up with a letter to parents and students on Thursday with a new solution.
“As a first step in rebuilding that trust, we are going to print new, revised yearbooks, replacing this photo,” Wing said. “Although we were presented with other options initially, we decided this was the right thing to do. As a result, we are calling for an immediate recall of all 2020 yearbooks that have been distributed.”
Staff will be on site to collect the recalled yearbooks on June 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. and June 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Wing said once she reviews and approves the new revised yearbook, it will be printed and copies should arrive for distribution the week of July 5. She thanked the publisher, Herff Jones, for its support with part of the reprinting costs.
“I want to reiterate that this type of racist behavior is unacceptable and has no place in our school,” Wing said. “Our school and community is very diverse and we have worked hard at creating an environment for our students in which they feel welcomed, safe and secure. Obviously, the yearbook that was published violates that trust.”
Wing also said the school’s investigation into how the incident occurred is still underway as she is continuing to meet and speak with students and their families. The staff members who oversaw the yearbook process are also being addressed, and the school is taking action to ensure a similar incident does not happen again, Wing said.
“Rest assured, with both students and staff, I am following protocols for investigation as well as the consequences to be issued,” she said. “I want to thank those of you have reached out to us with your concerns and feedback. 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.”
Soon after the photo began circulating on social media Wednesday, members of the community began signing a petition to reprint the school’s yearbook. Out of the 1,000 signature goal, 890 had signed the petition as of Thursday evening, prior to Wing’s letter to parents and students.
Wing ended the letter by saying that while the past cannot be changed, the school can continue to work to build a more inclusive school community that focuses on unity, acceptance, understanding, tolerance and hope.
“That begins with stating our clear stance against racism and social injustice and our willingness to work with our parents and students to stamp out racism,” Wing said.