How In The World Do Yearbooks Keep Making Such Offensive Mistakes?

Ramsha Sadiq Khan
A Pennsylvania school district has apologized for including Hitler and Stalin quotes in their yearbook. The question is, how did it even happen?


Yearbooks are supposed to be memorable, but some students are making the wrong kind of memories and leave the rest of us shaking our heads at their poor judgment and their schools' gross negligence.

Every year, a number of students make headlines for their witty yearbook quotes or pranks, but there are always some “accidental” typos mocking students’ race, skin tone, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Sometimes, even the pranks (which are supposed to be harmless) are so offensive that it makes one wonder how such an oversight could even occur.

For instance, Quaker Valley High School in Pennsylvania recently issued an apology and offered to refund students their money after people complained about the inclusion of some very disturbing quotes in the book.

Apparently, quotes from the likes of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were somehow included in the annual publication along with attributions, no less.

The quotes included Nazi leader’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.”

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

The administration is blaming this on the pranksters, obviously, but this is not the first offensive yearbook mistake of the year by any means.

Just recently, a hijab-wearing Muslim student at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga discovered the name “Isis Phillips” below her photo in her yearbook. It could’ve been disregarded as an honest mistake, but considering her real name is Bayan Zehlif, it does not seem like another typographical error.

“I am extremely saddened, disgusted, hurt and embarrassed that the Los Osos High School yearbook was able to get away with this,” the 16-year-old wrote on Facebook. “Apparently, I am 'Isis' in the yearbook. The school reached out to me and had the audacity to say that this was a typo. I beg to differ, let’s be real.”

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Similarly, the 2016 yearbook for Yucca Valley High School in Morongo Unified School District, California, shocked parents and school administration with a truly inappropriate Senior Superlatives section. A photo titled “Teacher's Nightmare” showed a male student pointing a gun at a book and a female student holding a knife over a different book.

Another picture shows two students lighting a fake bomb.

“In today's world, there may be many interpretations of a picture,” said school Superintendent Tom Baumgarten. “But anything that has a gun or a knife portrayed in a school setting can cause people concerns.”

In this instance, it was the teacher’s idea of satire and students, even those pictured with weapons, were not too happy about it.

These are just the latest in a long series of yearbook mistakes that occur every year.

Last year, a basketball player at Betsy Layne High School in Floyd County, Kentucky, was excluded from yearbook photos of the school’s sports team. The student, Dalton Maldonado, believed it had something to do with his sexual orientation.

In 2013, New York’s Hoosic Valley Central School yearbook labeled some athletes as “Creepy smile kid,” “Some tall guy” and “Isolation kid.” The school said it was a “non-intentional, honest mistake.”


None of these offensive instances can be brushed off as an honest mistake or an oversight. If anything, it’s a form of bullying — after all, what could be a better way to tarnish someone’s high school memories than ruin the thing that’s supposed to celebrate the entire experience?

If schools cannot make sure these errors do not occur, they should perhaps put a stop to this long tradition of yearbooks altogether.

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