I worked on my high school yearbook and, as an aspiring writer, it was a great early lesson in the great responsibility that comes along with the printed word: Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back — for better or worse.
We had a faculty yearbook adviser who was pretty hands-on, which meant most errors, large and small, would be caught by a more-trained, mature eye. He is obviously long gone, as evidenced by a serious yearbook fail at my alma mater last year in which an alleged bully holding a dismembered head and hand was depicted and labeled as “Most Feared by Freshmen” in the superlative section.
“Moving forward, we will ensure that the faculty adviser of the yearbook conducts a thorough review of each page so that the yearbook’s content is consistent with the District’s code of conduct/beliefs and there are no offensive photos or statements suggesting we condone inappropriate behavior.”
That’s how the Mamaroneck School District’s superintendent tried to wave away the lack of oversight about the incident. It was absurd, of course, because talking about moving forward explained exactly nothing about how that made it in the book in the first place.
A school in Texas is even more-cagey in explaining how a similarly disgusting error made it to print.
In the Dallas-area Mesquite High School’s yearbook, students with special needs were labeled as “mentally retarded,” according to the New York Daily News (via KDFW in Dallas-Fort Worth).
In a section dedicated to students with disabilities, it said in the yearbook the children were “both blind and deaf, as well as mentally retarded.”
The parents of the special needs students were understandably upset, as was The Arc, which is an organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The word “retarded” and “retardation” are considered derogatory, according to The Arc’s website. You know, and all civilized people.
As a result, all students at Mesquite High School had to return their yearbooks, which is said to have upset them. For their part, school district officials apologized “earnestly” for the incident. The school principal is expected to personally call and the “offended families.”
New yearbooks are expected to be distributed this week.
I still wonder how there’s no mention of a faculty yearbook adviser in the mea culpa process at Mesquite High School. Where was he or she in this process? How does something so offensive go unnoticed? Kids make mistakes, but in a situation like this, what is the adult excuse? And is the school doing enough to explain to the yearbook staff why this was not OK? How about explaining to the “upset” students why their yearbooks had to be turned in? Or is the hasty official apology without much explanation supposed to suffice?