I can honestly say that I would be furious if I were one of the parents whose special needs child was referred to as "mentally retarded" in the Mesquite High School yearbook. Furious. So I think the Texas school did the right thing by pulling all the yearbooks when the offending language was found (in a section meant to "honor" the special needs students, by the way), no matter how long the rest of the kids have to wait for an edited version to be printed.
I can also honestly say, as someone who worked on her high school newspaper and yearbook, I'm kind of amazed that more yearbooks don't get published with, and subsequently pulled for, offensive language.
Why? Because teenagers are in charge of putting yearbooks together! And teenagers don't know what they're doing half the time!
Yes, there's generally a faculty moderator involved on some level, but chances are that teacher has a ton of other responsibilities and proofreading the yearbook isn't going to be top-priority.
How do I know this? Let me tell you a little story about a decapitated nun ...
Well, sort of. It was my senior year of high school and, quite frankly, our FOOTBALL obsessed student body gave not a whit about the school newspaper, which is why our skeleton staff of gumshoe reporters got to do pretty much whatever we wanted with the thing. On this particular occasion, what we wanted was to cut the head of our principal, Sister Grumpypants, out of one photo and paste it on to another photo of the pile of stuffed animals donated for our holiday toy drive. (These were the days before Photoshop, mind you, so there were actual scissors and paste involved.) Bwahahah! Like our own secret version of Where's Waldo? Hey, that teddy bear has the head of a nun!
Anyway, our "moderator" (a frazzled Physics teacher) didn't even notice. Didn't even notice! We would've gotten away with the prank no prob if some goody-two-shoes at the off-site press our school used didn't double check before the paper went to print.
See what happens when teens are in charge?
In the case of the Mesquite yearbooks, I'm going to guess that the kid or kids responsible for the hurtful terminology didn't even realize they were being insensitive. The original passage didn't seem like it was intended to be cruel, it was just ignorant:
"Some of the disabilities the students in the Special Education Program have are being blind, deaf or non-verbal or being mentally retarded."
See what I mean? Poorly written with outdated language, but probably not an intentionally hateful act.
So I think the school did everything they could by issuing a "heartfelt" apology to families of the special needs students and ordering a re-print.
But should the students be condemned for the slip-up? Not really. Chastised, perhaps. But let's put this one in perspective.
Do you think the teenagers who put the words "mentally retarded" in the yearbook meant to be cruel?
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