Collin Hills will print new revised yearbooks, replacing a photo with a racial slur. 
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/AJC
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

Collins Hill High School decides to recall yearbooks with racial slur in photo

After the discovery this week that a student-submitted photo with racist imagery and language was published in the yearbook, Collins Hill High School announced today it will issue new books.

The photo with a racial slur was not caught by the 2020 yearbook staff or school before Collins Hill began distributing the annuals this week. The edited image shows a teen posed alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The teen is holding a sheet of paper that is supposed to be hall pass from King allowing the student to use racist language.

When the school became aware of the photo Wednesday, the principal issued a letter that stickers would be provided to those students who already had their books, and a filter would be applied to those books yet to be delivered.

That led to a petition on Change.org that said:

The 2020 yearbook that was handed out to students at Collins Hill High School is a symbol of racism by the placement of a single photoshopped photo that displays the exact problem with society today. We have received a email that a sticker will be made to cover the photograph, I am not sure how placing a “bandaid“ will cover this up.

What will our children tell their kids about this “sticker” when they flip through their yearbooks in 20 years? Every time a student looks back into this yearbook and sees or feels the sticker they will be reminded of the feeling that they have right now. The current situation has brought more light to the fact that racial injustice is a huge problem in our country and needs to ACTUALLY have a change made and not continue to push it aside or cover it up. 

The resolution that has been presented to us a parents and students of Collins Hill High School is unacceptable. The yearbook needs to be reprinted and paid for by whomever is responsible for the photograph and I ask that everyone sign this petition and reach out to any and every administrator to let them know our community will not stand for this. This is a time where we all need to come together and stand up for what is RIGHT. 

Now, principal Kerensa Wing announced in a second letter today that the books will be recalled and replaced.

Gwinnett spokeswoman Sloan Roach  said, “The replacement books will be provided at no cost to the student or family receiving the replacement book. The school issued a recall of all of the yearbooks and is asking families to return them. It will keep a record of who returns their yearbook. Students will need to return their yearbook to receive a new copy.’’

Here is the letter sent to parents by the Collins Hill principal:

June 11, 2020 

Dear Collins Hill Families and Staff Members, 

I wanted to follow up with you about the situation I shared yesterday and provide updates regarding our investigation and a solution regarding the removal of the racist and inappropriate photo from our yearbook. I want to reiterate that this type of racist behavior is unacceptable and has no place in our school. Our school and community is very diverse and we have worked hard at creating an environment for our students in which they feel welcomed, safe, and secure. 

Obviously, the yearbook that was published violates that trust. 

As a first step in rebuilding that trust, we are going to print new revised yearbooks, replacing this photo. Although we were presented with other options initially, we decided this was the right thing to do. As a result, we are calling for an immediate recall of ALL 2020 yearbooks that have been distributed. I will have staff on site to collect the recalled yearbooks on June 17th from 4-6 p.m. and June 18th from 11 a.m.– 1 p.m. Once I review and approve the new revised yearbook, it will be printed and copies should arrive for distribution the week of July 5th. I want to thank Herff Jones for making this happen so quickly and their support with part of the reprinting costs. 

Our investigation into how this occurred is still underway as I am continuing to meet and speak with students and their families. In addition, I am addressing the staff members who oversaw this process and we are taking action to ensure this does not happen again. Rest assured, with both students and staff, I am following protocols for investigation as well as the consequences to be issued. 

I want to thank those of you have reached out to us with your concerns and feedback. I share your anger and frustration with this situation and you have my commitment that we will continue to work diligently to overcome this act of racism and to address the processes that allowed this to occur. While we cannot change the past, we can continue our work to build a more inclusive school community that focuses on unity, acceptance, understanding, tolerance, and hope. That begins with stating our clear stance against racism and social injustice and our willingness to work with our parents and students to stamp out racism. 

Sincerely, 

Kerensa Wing

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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