A high school pulled 1,750 yearbooks because several students flashed a hand gesture popular among white supremacists in their photos.
According to CBS 2, students at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Illinois used the “OK” sign — in which three fingers form the letter “W” and the index finger and thumb a “P” to signify “White power” — in photos. On Friday, superintendent Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams told families there would be a delay in distribution.
A spokesperson from the school sent Yahoo Lifestyle a copy of Pruitt-Adams’s letter, which reads, “We’ve been made aware that this year’s ‘Tabula’ yearbook, which has not yet been distributed, contains several photos of students making a hand gesture that has different meanings. In some cases it’s in what is known as the circle game. However, the gesture has more recently become associated with white nationalism. Regardless of intent, the potential negative impact of this gesture has led us to decide that we cannot distribute the yearbook as is. We are looking at alternative options, and in the coming days we will share further details about distribution plans. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and support as we work through this situation.”
On Monday, the school sent another letter to parents, which it provided to Yahoo Lifestyle, offering an interim solution.
“We want to provide a brief update in response to concerns about the yearbook and when it will be distributed,” the notice read. “The administration understands the importance of the yearbook to high school students, especially graduating seniors. We are working diligently to determine a solution and distribution date as quickly as possible. Be assured, we will be publishing the yearbook. In the interim we will be publishing a blank book for signatures so students don’t miss out on that experience. We will share further details with you in the next day or so.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center says the gesture was recently introduced as a white power symbol on the internet board 4Chan and by Neo-Nazis in “a deliberate attempt to ‘trigger liberals’ into overreacting to a gesture so widely used that virtually anyone has plausible deniability built into their use of it in the first place.”
Marine Le Pen, the leader of a far-right French party, recently yanked a Facebook photo of her making the hand gesture standing next to a reported white “ethnonationalist,” though she denied having any understanding of white-supremacist meaning. And the Chicago Cubs baseball team is investigating a fan who made the symbol behind the back of a black newscaster on television in May.
On Monday evening, the Oak Park and River Forest Board of Education will reportedly discuss the yearbooks. A board member wrote on Facebook that a vote will be cast as to whether a revised version of the book without those specific photos should be purchased.
According to the Chicago Tribune, each yearbook costs $45 — and, collectively, a total of $80,000 in printing fees.
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