Waianae High recalls yearbooks containing racial slur


POSTED: Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hundreds of Waianae High School yearbooks are being recalled to replace a page with a photograph of what school officials call a “;racially offensive”; word spelled out in cards held by five students in the senior class on football field bleachers.

The photograph, with the racial N-word slur, was overlooked during a review of the publication, state education officials said.

“;It was inadvertently missed,”; said Lisa DeLong, the Nanakuli/Waianae Complex area superintendent.

DeLong said the photograph is being replaced with one that has been altered to eliminate the slur.

In classes yesterday, students with yearbooks were being asked to paste the revised page over the original page.

School Principal JoAnn Kumasaka said the publication of the photograph was unintentional and that the school offers its sincerest apologies.

“;It is neither the policy nor practice of the Hawaii state Department of Education and Waianae High School to sanction this type of insensitive behavior toward African-Americans or any ethnic group,”; she said. “;It's very unfortunate.”;

Kumasaka said the letter cards were held by five students, including one student who had a card with two G's, and the students with the cards were staggered up and down rows on bleachers among seniors holding other signs.

She said the yearbook's student staffers usually do a good job of reviewing the pages and that the school yearbook has won awards in the past.

DeLong said the school is conducting an investigation and will take appropriate action, which could include suspension, denying walking privileges during graduation, and community service.

DeLong said the problem came to the school's attention Wednesday, and formal letters recalling the yearbooks were sent to parents Thursday.

The yearbooks were distributed on May 22.

Waianae High has an estimated enrollment of 1,800 students in grades 9-12.

State education spokeswoman Sandra Goya said the recall because of a racially insensitive photograph was a first at Waianae High, but similar problems have occurred at a couple of other public schools.

Stickers were placed over a racially offensive caption in a yearbook at Kalaheo High School in 1997 and a racially offensive photograph at Castle High School in 1998, Goya said.