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Thread: Chicago high school spends $53,000 to reprint yearbooks after staff discovered photos of students making white nationalist hand gestures

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    Chicago high school spends $53,000 to reprint yearbooks after staff discovered photos of students making white nationalist hand gestures

    Source: DailyMail

    • Oak Park and River Forest High School halted the distribution of its yearbooks when staff found 18 photos of students making an upside-down OK sign
    • Students of 'various races, ethnicities, genders and grades' flashed the symbol
    • The hand gesture has become associated with the white supremacist movement
    • It has been used by self-described racists including the accused shooter in the New Zealand mosque attacks in March and participants in Unite the Right rallies
    • The Chicago school said it is not making presumptions about why the students flashed the sign, which can also be used as part of the harmless 'circle game'
    • But the school decided to remove the photos and reprint the yearbooks for $53k

    A Chicago high school is spending $53,794 to reprint its 2018-19 yearbooks after staff discovered photos of students making a hand gesture associated with white nationalism.

    Administrators at Oak Park and River Forest High School decided to halt distribution of the original 1,750 copies after finding 18 photos featuring students making an upside-down OK sign often used by far-right groups.

    Students of 'various races, ethnicities, genders and grades' flashed the symbol, schools chief Joylynn Pruitt-Adams told parents, students and staff in an e-mail on Monday seen by the Chicago Sun Times.

    'The photos in question, as well as other club/team photos in which students are striking poses and making gestures, will be replaced with straight-forward group shots,' Pruitt-Adams wrote about the 'Tabula' yearbook.

    While putting stickers over the photos would be a cheaper solution, it would draw attention to particular groups of students and place a cloud of suspicion over all the students in those photos, regardless of whether they used the sign or not,' she said.

    The hand gesture has at times been used in the harmless 'circle game,' in which pranksters make a circle with their fingers and hold it below their waist. If a second person looks at it, the first playfully punches them.

    But recently the sign has become associated with the white supremacist movement.

    The upside-down OK sign was circulated as a hoax by users of the shadowy website 4chan to falsely promote white supremacy in 2017, but recently white supremacists have started using it as an authentic hate symbol, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

    The gesture is said to depict the letter 'W' with the outstretched middle, ring and little fingers, and a 'P' with the circle made by the thumb and forefinger stretching down to the wrist. Together the letters stand for 'white power'.

    Among those who have used the controversial sign was the self-described racist accused of slaughtering scores of Muslim worshippers at mosques in New Zealand in March. Brenton Tarrant flashed the symbol in court.

    A former White House intern came under fire after flashing the 'white power' sign during a photo-op with President Donald Trump in 2017.

    It was also seen at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 - the same day an alleged Nazi sympathizer accelerated his car into anti-protesters, killing one and injuring several others.

    The ADL notes that the gesture 'is a nearly universal hand gesture and most usage of it is completely innocuous'.

    'The fact that white supremacists, the alt lite and many Trump supporters all use the symbol means that one cannot assume that anyone who poses with such a gesture is intending or exhibiting an association with white supremacy,' the anti-hate organization writes on its website.

    School administrators said they were not making presumptions about students' intent in flashing the sign.

    But the schools chief said subjecting students to this potential 'trauma is simply not acceptable.'

    'Many students, not only our students of color, experience this gesture as a symbol of White supremacy,' Pruitt-Adams said.

    She added 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.'

    School board member Matt Baron voted against reprinting the yearbooks.

    'One of my biggest concerns: that if we toss out these 1,750 Tabulas, rather than come to the thoughtful conclusion that they should still be distributed, we are playing right into the hands of all the haters whose evil is at the root of this corrosive and divisive angst — and worse — that we are experiencing,' he wrote in a Facebook post.

    Students are set to finish school by May 30, but it is expected to take three or four weeks to reprint the yearbooks.

    Oak Park and River Forest High School is a comprehensive public high school with around 3,300 students in a suburb eight miles west of downtown Chicago.
    “Tradition anchors our experience of time in memory and projects it into the future through hope.” – Rein Staal

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