CHICAGO (CBS)—Administrators at Oak Park and River Forest High School decided Monday at a special school board meeting to spend nearly $54,000 to reprint the school yearbook, after discovering several photos of students making a hand gesture associated with racism.
Fresh off the printing press, school staff leafed through the original yearbooks and found 18 photos of students making the symbol, which is formed by making an “ok” symbol with the fingers and turning the hand into a downward position.
The symbol, known as the “circle game,” has recently taken on a more sinister connotation. Far-right racist groups have been using it to advocate for white power.
An email to families from District 200 Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams reads, in part:
“The sign has more recently become associated with white nationalism. The photos in question, as well as all the other club team/photos in which students are striking poses and making gestures, will be replaced with the straight-forward group shots.”
The School Board considered putting stickers over the photos as an alternative to a total reprint, but decided the stickers could draw negative attention to the students in the photos.
Stickers would “place a cloud of suspicion over all the students in those photos, regardless of whether they used the sign or not,” Pruitt-Adams wrote in the letter.
All the photos in question were taken in October of 2018, “before the gesture was widely known to have any association with white nationalism,” school officials said.
“Regardless of intent, however, there is a real and negative impact,” Pruitt-Adams wrote. “Many students, not only our students of color, experience this gesture as a symbol of White supremacy. Potentially subjecting our students to this trauma is simply not acceptable.”
New copies of the 2018-19 yearbook, titled “Tabula”, will take up to four weeks to reprint.
The tradition of signing yearbooks at the end of the year won’t be affected by the delay, school officials said, because the school is giving students an eight-page blank signature booklet that can be inserted into the finished yearbook when it comes back from the printer.