High School Yearbook Names Teen With Special Needs 'Most Likely to Disappear'

Most high school seniors do not benefit from yearbook superlatives -- which is, you may recall, that page or two in the book that christens less than 1 percent of the graduating class as a "class clown" or "most likely to succeed."

But, for the most part, they are harmless. You could argue it's also a fairly democratic process since, as far as I know, most schools allow all students to vote for the "best looking" or "most spirited" or "cutest couple" or whatever other positive label they can think up.

Emphasis on positive label. Things can get hairy when members of the yearbook committee decide to throw in a label that they, at age 17, think is hilarious, but that to most adults with a conscience would just seem cruel. At a high school in West Virginia, a student with special needs became the butt of a yearbook joke when the 2014 edition was published with his photo above the honor "Most Likely to Disappear."

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"Brady" was a student in special education classes at Cameron High School. He and his friend were reportedly asked to pose for photos before the yearbook came out, but they weren't told the reason. How absolutely disgusting is it that he and his family made the discovery that he had been voted "Most Likely to Disappear" AND that the young man had to look up the word "disappear" in a dictionary to understand that his peers were making fun of him.

The only good news here is that the town of Cameron was as appalled by this as most people would be and rallied on Facebook against the school's decision to release these books. A lawyer for the family -- and god, I've never been happier that an attorney is involved in a case -- says he asked the school board to destroy the books and reprint new ones. So far, they haven't agreed to do so, which is truly disgraceful.

The county superintendent has not released the name of the teacher or school employee who oversaw the yearbook's production because this is still a legal matter. There is no excuse for this person to be allowed to work with children if he/she thinks so little of them.

Of course I blame the teens who conceived of this category and cruelly (and cowardly) snapped Brady's photo without letting him know of their intentions. But kids can be mean. And kids need supervision. The person who should be held accountable for this is the adult who was supposed to watch over them and ensure every student who received a yearbook felt good about themselves, their school, and the time they spent there.

The message this yearbook sends to the country about this school -- whether it's justified or not -- is that its administration lacks compassion and empathy. They would be wise to destroy the books and reprint them without this superlative category. Make up for the cost by printing the 2015 books without superlatives. Turn this incident into a teaching moment for students by showing them that all actions have consequences. 

Let's hope they do the right thing.

Do you think this school should destroy their yearbooks and reprint them, or was this one harmless mistake that slipped through?

 

Image © iStock.com/spxChrome

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