Anti-Semitic slur makes it into high school yearbook

Parents and administrators at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino are outraged that an anti-Semitic slur slipped into the school yearbook, which went to press with the slur intact, the San Jose Mercury News reported this week.

According to the paper, a male student admitted to inserting the slur by altering the last name of an Israeli-born student in the caption for a team photo, changing the last three letters to “jew.” The victim’s family is descended from Holocaust survivors.

The slur apparently slipped past the yearbook adviser and other editors, and more than 1,600 copies were printed and distributed before the caption was spotted. Despite a request from the parents of the victim to recall the yearbooks, the Mercury News quoted a district spokesperson as saying that “may be next to impossible” because the books have already been distributed to students “and it is unlikely they will be willing to return them.”

However, families did receive an email apology from the school principal and Fremont Union High School District that asked them to bring in the yearbooks so replacement labels could be placed over the offending caption, KTVU Channel 2 reported. Some students apparently did that.

According to the Mercury News, school and district officials said they were “outraged” and the perpetrator will face “consequences,” though officials declined to elaborate. The paper did not print the names of the perpetrator or the victim because both are minors, but it did note that the victims’ parents speak Hebrew at home and “are stunned by the stain on their son’s name.”

The mother of the victimized student said the slur conjured up the signs and labels used by Nazis during the Holocaust. “It always starts out little by little,” she told the Mercury News. “It’s better to stop this now when it’s little.”

Seth Brysk, the Central Pacific regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, commented on the incident in an email to J.

“Using labels to single out anyone for ridicule is inappropriate, offensive and unacceptable,” he wrote. “Among other actions, the ADL is offering support to the boy and family targeted by the bigoted taunt, registering our community’s concerns to the administration, and will be pleased to provide our assistance to make this a teachable moment for all concerned. Words matter. Challenging bigoted and offensive remarks is critical to ensuring dignity and respect for all people.”

Santa Clara County prosecutors were contacted, according to media reports, but the incident did not appear to meet the requirements of a hate crime.

School district spokeswoman Sue Larson told media outlets that the school and the district will be using the incident as a teaching moment.

“We will be working with our students and community to help them understand the seriousness of such an act and to help them develop greater sensitivity, tolerance, and respect,” the Mercury News quoted her as saying. “In addition, more rigorous review systems will be implemented to help prevent a similar occurrence in a future MVHS yearbook.” — j. staff