Nine Shocking Yearbook Controversies

Shocking Yearbook Controversies

1. School apologizes for yearbook photo of students dressed as Nazis

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A school district in Tennessee issued an apology Friday in response to an offensive photo that was published within a middle school's yearbook, featuring two students dressed like Nazi soldiers.

CBS affiliate WREG-TV reports the image, which shows Houston Middle School students wearing swastikas and mustaches similar to Adolf Hitler's, did not have a caption beneath it to give additional context to readers. 

"We understand the concern and are reviewing the incidents with students and staff who were involved," the Germantown School District said in statement about the incident. "The district doesn't condone the placement of photos of this nature in any school publication and apologizes to anyone who was offended by the insensitive image." 

The school's principal wrote a letter to parents explaining the picture was taken during a history lesson called "The Nazis in Power: Discrimination, Obedience, and Opportunism." During the lesson, students were asked to draw conclusions about unjust laws in Nazi Germany by role-playing, and to reflect on discrimination in modern times. 

According to the principal, the class was implemented to teach students about the importance and appreciation of "our diverse world," being that the school celebrates diversity. 

It remains unclear as to how the photo ended up in the school's yearbook. 

School officials did not clarify whether or not the incident will affect procedures for the publication of yearbooks in years to come. 


2. Phil Campbell yearbook ad controversy resolved; Confederate flag removed
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Parents and school system administrators have reached an agreement about senior picture ads deemed inappropriate at Phil Campbell High School.

It’s these senior ads for Phil Campbell’s yearbook which got flagged by administrators. They deemed the images of the boy’s posing with guns as inappropriate.

School leaders also thought Cody Morgan’s page with the Confederate flag over the American flag was desecration.

“I wasn’t trying to do anything with the flag to dishonor anybody doing that. It was just about my son. That’s all it was, stuff he loves,” said Cathy Morgan, Cody’s mother.

Morgan designed the pages for her son and Joshua Burcham. She received word second-hand on Monday the pages could not be used.

“If you would have just called me and if it the flag was the issue there would have been nothing else said. I would have took care of it,” Morgan said.

On Thursday Morgan sat down with school system leaders for the first time. In the meeting she agreed to remove the flag from the ad, and in turn she was able to use the images of the boys posing with guns.

“That was my main goal, this is his last year and I wanted that to be about him and that’s what it was. That’s what most people put on there,” stated Morgan.

School system leaders said they will evaluate instituting guidelines for all senior ad’s moving forward.

Something Morgan applauds. She said the necessary changes to her son’s ad have been made, and now she and Cody are ready to finish enjoying the rest of the school year.


3. High school apologizes for Stalin, Hitler quotes in yearbooks

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There are humorous yearbook quotes and then, well, there are these.

Students and parents at Quaker Valley High School in Pennsylvania were in for a shock after discovering the school's yearbook included quotes — with attributions, no less— from Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The three quotations included were Hitler's “Words build bridges into unexplored regions,” Stalin's “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, so why would we let them have ideas?” and al-Baghdadi's “Be just: the unjust never prosper. Be valiant. Keep your word, even to your enemies."

Upon discovering the error, the school district has offered refunds to students who want to return the yearbooks — which cost $69 a piece but can range up to $100 for customized versions —and stickers to cover up the quotes for those who opt to keep them.

Though it's unclear how the oversight happened, the school district apologized to students and parents in an email obtained by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Thursday, explaining that while the quotes were vetted before publication, the attributions obviously were not. 

“This is a regrettable mistake, as the school district would never knowingly condone this messaging in a school-sponsored publication,” the statement signed by district leadership read. “We are well aware of the emotions this has conjured in many of our students and their families, and for that we are sorry.”

Though the district didn't indicate whether any students will be punished in relation to the incident, it seems safe to say the high school's student body was not amused by the prank.

“It's one thing to have a silly quote from your favorite TV show," senior Dominique Cagliuso told the Tribune-Review. "But to have a quote from dictators is disrespectful.”


4. North Carolina school district recalls yearbooks over Trump quote

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A North Carolina high school recalled its yearbooks after officials saw a senior's quote which read "Build that wall" ascribed to President Donald Trump -- but the move drew criticism online.

Yearbooks for Richmond Early College High School in Hamlet were recalled because some senior quotes were considered controversial, The News & Observer reported.

"Earlier this week, it was discovered by school administration that Richmond Early College yearbooks had errors and inappropriate comments," the school district said on Facebook Tuesday. "The principal immediately collected the distributed yearbooks."

The school district apologized and said it was working on making corrections with the yearbook publisher.

"As a district, we do not and will not tolerate inappropriate conduct toward any of our students," the post said.

School and district officials found several quotes deemed inappropriate, school district spokeswoman Ashley-Michelle Thublin said. She said that included the "Build that Wall" comment that became one of Trump's campaign slogans last year.

"Only a handful of annuals were distributed before the mistake was discovered by the principal," Thublin said in a statement. "Those were taken back up the same morning and the rest were not distributed."

She did not answer a question from Fox News about which other senior quotes aside from the "wall" one were considered inappropriate.

An image of the senior quote was posted on Facebook Tuesday by user Artney Ellerbe, the Richmond County Daily Journal reported.

"So Richmond county school system allowed this to be printed in their 2017 year book," Ellerbe captioned the post.  "I already knew this city was racist. Get a court date you'll find out. This doesn't surprise me at all." Ellerbe's caption concluded with "#Share."

"I feel that young lady only stood up for her freedom of speech by using the quote of her choice," Charity Davis, a mother of a freshman at the school, told the Daily Journal. "Every senior was given the opportunity to choose a quote. It was her right as an American to choose any quote under the sun."

Thublin said none of the students are being disciplined.

It's too late to get the books reprinted so students are being refunded. They cost $30 to $39 dollars based on time of purchase.


5. A text that banned Bible quotes from a senior yearbook and caused upset among parents and students

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Some students and parents at Wade Hampton High School were upset, Tuesday, after a text went out to seniors saying religious and political quotes were “too controversial” to be used as their senior quote for the yearbook.

The news sparked outrage on social media, namely from students wishing to use bible verses, who felt their right to free speech was “violated.”

7 News talked to Greenville County School Director of Communications, Beth Brotherton, who said the incident was a “misunderstanding.”

A group of 8 to 10 quotes deemed “cryptic” were pulled by yearbook staff and taken to an assistant principal.

Brotherton said the administrator told the student staff they should review quotes that could be deemed religiously, politically or ethnically offensive.

“Unfortunately a text message went out to a large group of people that made it sound more like a ban or an administration policy. When, in fact, we just want to make sure we’re taking a close look at all of the quotes that are going to be in the yearbook to make sure that nobody feels harassed, that nobody feels bullied and nobody feels uncomfortable by anything that’s said,” said Brotherton.

She said Bible verses and politically-inclined posts would be allowed as senior quotes.

“I want to make it very clear that none of these quotes that were pulled or questioned – the 8 to 10 – are bible verses. All bible verses have been allowed in the past and will be allowed again this year,” said Brotherton. “We are in no way trying to step on our students freedom of speech, freedom of religion…we want them….this is the forum for them to be able to express themselves.”

Wednesday, Wade Hampton High School Principal, Eric Williams, released the following message to his students and parents:

“Seniors, I apologize for the miscommunication regarding yearbook quotes. Some of you have been understandably upset at the idea of the administration instituting a ban that would inhibit your first amendment rights. This was not my intention. Please be assured that senior quotes will be printed as submitted, unless they reflect bullying, appear to promote drugs or alcohol, or in some other way violate the Behavior Code or other school rules. I do not believe the few quotes of this nature that were received by the yearbook staff represent the Attributes of a General that we all work hard to portray to our fellow students and community. We will speak individually with those seniors who submitted questionable quotes, asking for clarifications and revisions. Unless Mrs. Grieve or I speak with you directly, your quote will be printed in the yearbook as it was written. If you have any questions or concerns, please come see me.”


6. High school senior’s funny yearbook quote about ‘sounding white’ goes viral

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Savanna Tomlinson said she wanted her senior yearbook quote to stand out.

In just two days, it has gone viral on social media.

“Anything is possible when you sound Caucasian on the phone,” reads the widely-shared quote next to the Florida high school senior’s portrait.

She said she chose the quote to entertain her peers — and because she thinks it’s true.

“I work at MetroPCS, and when I’m answering the phone, I hear my tone of voice change,” she told the Daily News. She said she can hear its pitch change to sound “Caucasian,” but insists it’s unintentional. “You just do it,” she said.

Tomlinson came across a comedian on Twitter who posted a photograph of himself holding up a plane ticket a few months ago. “this is AMERICA. anything is possible if you sound white on the phone,” he tweeted, when he found out he was flying for free after a long day of travel.

“He got a free plane ticket and he accredited it to sounding white on the phone,” Tomlinson said. “At the time I thought it was funny and cute and it was also kind of accurate.”

She told friends what she had chosen to write, but they didn’t believe she would follow through. “My last name, Tomlinson, is all the way at the end, so if someone flips that far, I want to stand out,” she said.

Tomlinson said she’s enjoying all the attention she’s getting. Some students have even asked for her autograph.

As of Thursday, 140,000 Twitter users had liked her post of a picture of her yearbook page. Another 58,000 had retweeted it.

“You are an icon,” replied one user. “Whenever i read yearbook quotes only 1 of them are funny why cant they all be,” another user replied.

Tomlinson captioned the photo “Going out with a bang.”

Her quote is so popular that she’s been called on to run for president in 2020. She hopes she can parlay her newfound fame into a modelling career.

She thinks others will be able to relate to the quote, too. “It’s something that growing up African-American you are thinking of and it is something that has relevance in today’s world,” she said. “It’s a comical truth.”


7. The politician whose school yearbook mention came back to haunt him 32 years later

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This controversial yearbook mention comes 32 years after it was published—did Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, found a club that bore the name “Fascism Forever"?

His high school yearbook says so, but it's only a joke.

America, a Jesuit Review magazine, interviewed former classmates of Gorsuch's who said the club didn't exist, despite its mention. "The mention of it in the yearbook was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to poke fun at liberal peers who teased him about his fierce conservatism,” reported the magazine.

Gorsuch's yearbook also listed him as “President of the Yard, Student Government” and "President of the Committee to Reform The Beast” as well as a “Lousy Spanish Student.”

Joke in high school at your own peril—you never know where it will end up!


8. Yearbook marketing creates controversy at Palisade HS

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A yearbook marketing scheme created controversy at Palisade High School after posters were put on the walls around the school.

The posters show photos of students who did not purchase yearbooks on a wanted sign.

Some parents see this as a form of bullying.

Jennifer Watkins, a mother of a Palisade student, said students should not be singled out for not buying a yearbook, saying this picks on kids for how much money their families make.

Watkin’s pointed to a picture of her daughter on one of the posters.

"That is her senior picture," said Watkins. "I was mad, I was like why is the school bullying these kids when we should be sheltering these kids."

In a statement, D-51 said they never intended to hurt anyone or single anyone out for how much money their families make.

"I don't want another student to feel like they're being bullied by the school, let alone another student,” said Jennifer Watkins.

The yearbook staff learned about this technique in training last summer. It is something that is used across the country.

"It's very sad and pathetic where we live in a time where yearbooks are more important than our students," said Watkins.

Sophomore Taylor Copeland doesn't think it's a big deal.

"I think it's just journalism's way of advertising and getting more people to buy a yearbook," said Copeland.

But she agrees, it wasn't the best way to market yearbooks.

"There would be many other ways to go about that," said Copeland.

In their statement, D-51 said there are a lot of reasons why people do not buy yearbooks, including that they don't want one or have forgotten to buy one.

The school has taken down the posters after parents complained about them.


9. Celebrities, Notable Figures Splashed Across Bear Creek High Yearbooks

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Bear Creek High School students got a few surprises in their yearbooks.

Will Smith, Dolly Parton and former president Barack Obama made cameos in this year’s edition, and it was all Hannah Hightman’s idea. Yearbook staff scattered the section with some of the world’s most recognizable people and characters throughout the senior section. Hightman says it fits perfectly with the yearbook’s theme “Out of the Blue.”

But the idea extends beyond the shock value. Her goal was to raise money for a cash-strapped journalism program. She convinced a well-known advertising company to get on board and even got the rights to the celebrity images.


The concept was well received by students who said it was fun flipping through the pages and finding famous photos next to their best friends and classmates.

“It feels great just being able to share this experience with my classmates,” said senior Maliny Syhavong.

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