At least two Arizona school board members are outraged that student messages in their district's high school yearbook were censored after the bound volumes — costing $75 a pop — came back from the printer.
And how was that task accomplished? According to Mark Stegeman, governing board member for the Tuscon Unified School District, yellow and black stickers were pasted over each comment in each yearbook — "a major enterprise," Stegeman told TheBlaze on Wednesday, involving Sambino High School yearbook staff members and even school staff members.
The Arizona Independent reported that 10 messages captioned with student's photos — mostly seniors — were covered because they were either racist or inappropriate. Stegeman told TheBlaze stickers were used.
Apparently due to the time it took to cover the comments in each yearbook, students didn't get a chance to pass them around for friends' signatures. A school alumni Facebook page indicates students received the yearbooks on the last day of school, which was May 22 — also high school graduation day. While Stegmeman didn't know exactly how many yearbooks were censored, he told TheBlaze that about 1,000 students attend the school.
Stegeman said he was "mystified" over the decision to cover students' comments, most of which to him seemed "reasonable" to leave untouched, apart from the fact that the issue should have been resolved before the yearbook went to print. He said it was "rude" of the school to "block out into oblivion" what were students' last words to each other.
Reportedly among the offending covered comments was one from a Latina student: “Every Mexican needs a white best friend.” Another apparently censored student comment reads, “Come getcha some — Turtleman.” Another student message reportedly stated she was “drunk on you and high on summer time" and also was reportedly covered. That last quote includes lyrics to a popular country song by Luke Bryan.
"We got a lot of complaints," Stegeman told TheBlaze regarding the sticker shock.
“It is inappropriate,” Michael Hicks, another board member, told the Independent. “We don’t know what the school administration was thinking but this does not seem fair to the seniors of Sabino High School. We fought hard to stop teachers from imposing their world view in our other schools’ classrooms. It should be wrong for all of our professionals. They paid $75 for a book and they put tape all over it.
"Nothing I have read warrants what they have done. I think the District should apologize or give the kids their money back. The principal should have reviewed this before it went to the printer. If it offends his sensibilities for whatever reason, those reasons should be articulated to the students, and adults should have talked to them about their objections beforehand.”
TheBlaze on Wednesday asked for a comment from faculty member Thomas Knutson — who, according to the high school website, teaches English and appears connected to the yearbook in some capacity — but the email wasn't immediately returned.
Stegeman told TheBlaze he's "fairly confident" based on his understanding of what happened that the principal made the call to cover the photo captions. Phone calls to principal Matt Munger and district Superintendent H.T. Sanchez on Wednesday were not immediately returned.
On the school's alumni Facebook page, Katie Chester Lasota said she was the yearbook editor in 2000 and that the administration "doesn't look at anything until its in print. We got in trouble for articles about teenage pregnancy and such, but we had an amazing adviser who fought for us on keeping them in. The YB adviser should have caught those before it went to print. How embarrassing for every one."