- Oak Park River Forest High School District 200 in Chicago is spending $US53,794 to reprint its 2018-19 yearbooks.
- The yearbooks contained 18 photos featuring students making an upside-down OK sign, which has recently been associated with white supremacist groups.
- Pruitt-Adams said the hand gesture is also associated with “the circle game,” a prank in which one person makes a circle with their fingers and holds it below their waist, convincing a second person to look at it.
- She said the photos could “subject students to potentially a lifetime of questions or penalty from colleges, employers, etc,” so the school’s board of education opted to take the images out of the yearbook.
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A high school in Chicago is spending $US53,794 to reprint its 2018-19 yearbooks after school officials noticed photos of students making a hand gesture associated with white supremacist groups in the original copies.
Oak Park River Forest High School, District 200, had previously halted distribution of yearbooks that contained “18 photos of clubs or teams in which students of various races, ethnicities, genders, and grades made a hand gesture – an upside-down OK sign,” according to a letter from Superintendent Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams seen by INSIDER.
The upside-down OK sign circulated as hoax by 4chan users to falsely promote white supremacy in 2017, but in the last year, white supremacists have started using it as a symbol of white power, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Pruitt-Adams said the hand gesture is also associated with “the circle game,” a prank in which one person makes a circle with their fingers and holds it below their waist, convincing a second person to look at it. If the second person looks, the first playfully punches them.
The superintendent said the photos in question were taken of clubs and teams in mid-October 2018, then approved and shipped to a printer in December 2018, “before the gesture was widely known to have any association with white nationalism.”
“I want to be clear that we are not making any presumptions about students’ intent in using the gesture. Regardless of intent, however, there is a real and negative impact,” Pruitt-Adams said. “Many students, not only our students of colour, experience this gesture as a symbol of White supremacy. Potentially subjecting our students to this trauma is simply not acceptable.”
She said that Oak Park and River Forest High School wanted to be on the “leading edge” of addressing the issue and said the photos could “subject students to potentially a lifetime of questions or penalty from colleges, employers, etc.”
She said the district negotiated the initial cost of the reprint down to $US53,794 from $US85,000.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the school initially printed 1,750 copies of the yearbook before deciding to remove the images.
While the yearbooks are being reprinted, students will receive an eight-page autograph book that can be glued into the new yearbooks.
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