Seniors who were looking forward to receiving their yearbooks at Chaska High School on Tuesday were disappointed to learn they would have to wait to get a copy after school officials discovered a photo depicting a student in blackface.
The yearbooks, which were meant to be distributed on Tuesday to seniors and to the rest of the students in June at the Chaska, Minn., high school, were delayed so the school can remove the offending page in the already printed edition.
The photo, according to assistant principal Jim Swearingen, was taken in September at a football game in which fans were encouraged to wear black clothing to support the team. Some students also wore blackface, according to Minneapolis news station KSTP.
"During final review of the yearbook we discovered a small picture taken of the student cheer section during that game that included one student in blackface," Swearingen wrote in a letter to parents obtained by Yahoo Lifestyle.
"As a school community, we have talked about that incident, as well as the racist history behind wearing blackface," Swearingen wrote in his letter, referring to the blackface worn at the football game.
However, one parent, Tonya Coleman, told the Star Tribune that such conversations never occurred.
"They haven't had any dialogue about it all, according to many, many parents," she said.
Now, students and parents are demanding change. A petition started in April has circulated that not only demands a zero-tolerance anti-racism policy and changes to the curriculum in the school but also is petitioning for new leadership at the high school.
"At no time do we condone the ridicule or demeaning of humans, particularly our own students," Swearingen wrote in the letter to parents. "I apologize that this happened and for the delay in our yearbook distribution."
Beyond the aforementioned football game, Eastern Carver County Schools have been plagued by racially charged incidents throughout the year. In December, the N-word was found written on a student's gym shirt. In February, students wearing a black charcoal face mask shared a photo on social media with a "racially offensive hashtag." In March, students accused school officials of censoring their Black History Month posters. Just last month, a photo circulated of 25 black students superimposed on a Google Maps image with a locator label which read, "Negro Hill."
Eastern Carver County School District Superintendent Clint Christopher provided a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle on the incident.
“It’s important to acknowledge that there are issues in our schools. No one in the district is contesting that we have work to do, and I take my responsibility to our students, each and every one of them, seriously and personally,” the statement says. “I – and I speak for my staff and for the School Board – am committed to fixing these concerns at every level of our school district. These incidents do not and will not define us, and we are investing in long-term, system-wide work to change the culture so that every person who is a part of our school community feels safe, welcome, included, and respected.”
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