A high school in a Chicago suburb is spending more than $53,000 to reprint its 2018-2019 yearbook after staff discovered photos inside in which students were flashing the white supremacist “OK” hand sign.
Administrators at Oak Park and River Forest High School released a statement last week notifying parents that they were withholding the yearbooks from distribution after they discovered the photos, according to CBS Chicago.
This week, the Chicago Tribune reported that the high school will pay Jostens $53,794 to reprint the books and that the new versions are expected to be delivered to students by mid-June.
The racist adaptation of the “OK” hand sign began on 4chan ― an anonymous message board frequented by racists, trolls and extremists ― and has since been co-opted by prominent white supremacists who often use it to signal their presence to like-minded extremists. It’s prominent enough that those who use it have been fired from their jobs or faced other consequences ― recently, a Chicago Cubs fan was banned indefinitely from Wrigley Field after flashing the hand sign behind a black reporter during a live broadcast.
While the students’ intent was unclear and the photos weren’t made available, the content was apparently jarring enough that staff felt it necessary to reprint the yearbooks.
An email to parents, from school district Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams, notes that while the hand gestures could have been in reference to the classic schoolyard made-you-look “circle game,” its use by hateful people and ideologies led to the decision:
We’ve been made aware that this year’s ‘Tabula’ yearbook, which has not yet been distributed, contains several photos of students making a hand gesture that has different meanings. In some cases it’s used in what is known as the circle game. However, the gesture has more recently become associated with white nationalism. Regardless of intent, the potential negative impact of this gesture has led us to decide that we cannot distribute the yearbook as is. We are looking at alternative options, and in the coming days we will share further details about distribution plans. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and support as we work through this situation.