A racist photo ended up on a senior page in the 2020 Collins Hill High School yearbook, leading to a letter today to families from the principal.
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/AJC
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

Racist photo slipped into Collins Hill High School yearbook 

Somehow, a photo with racist imagery and language ended up on a senior page in the Collins Hill High School yearbook, leading to a letter today to families from the principal apologizing and pledging to find out what happened.

The edited image shows a teen posed with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The young man is holding a sheet of paper that is supposed to be hall pass from King allowing the student to use racist language. 

We have chosen not to run the photo — which is already out on social media — due to the language. Gwinnett is sending replacement photos to hide the offensive image in yearbooks already distributed this week. Those yearbooks that have not been sent will have the photo filtered by the yearbook publisher. 

A Collins Hill parent who contacted the AJC said, “I am angry and appalled that this has happened and that it wasn’t stopped before going to print and sent to students.”

Because of the abrupt end to in-person school in March, high school yearbook sponsors fretted over missed deadlines and incomplete information.  Apparently, they also had to worry about students attempting to slip in racist imagery. 

Here is the letter from the school: 

June 10, 2020 

Dear Collins Hill High School Families and Staff Members, 

I am reaching out to make you aware of a disturbing issue involving our school yearbook. The yearbooks arrived this week and we began distributing them when it was brought to our attention that it includes an inappropriate and racist photograph. This is unacceptable and we are currently investigating to determine who submitted this photo and how our processes did not address this before it went to print. 

Once this investigation is completed, we will take appropriate action with those involved. In our initial investigation, it appears that some of the pages planned for the yearbook were not finished prior to our students moving to digital learning. As these photos were not available, the yearbook company replaced those pages with senior selfies that had been submitted. Unfortunately, the picture was not caught in the final proof before the yearbook went to press. 

That said, this photo was submitted by our yearbook staff and we are meeting with those involved to determine how that occurred. 

In the meantime, I want to make you aware of the steps we are taking to remove this offensive picture from our yearbook. We are working with the yearbook company to print a sticker of a replacement photo that will be mailed to all who purchased a yearbook. As we have not finished distributing the yearbooks, this photo has been altered to block the offensive message from all yearbooks still in our possession. We also will be reviewing all of our yearbook processes—from the submission of photos to final proofing—to ensure this does not occur again. 

I know offensive words and sentiments like the ones included in this photo are hurtful and you have my full apology this has happened. I am disappointed in the students involved, as this is not who we are at Collins Hill High School and does not reflect our values and beliefs. 

Sincerely, 

Kerensa Wing, 

Principal

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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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