The school year is ending on a disturbing note for students and staff at Lincoln's Irving Middle School. A student vandalized another student's picture in the yearbook and the book was printed before it was caught.
Someone wrote the letters "WTF" next to a seventh-grader's picture. An eighth-grader who was on the yearbook staff has been technically suspended for the rest of the year, though Thursday was the last day of school. The letters were in all 525 copies.
As principal Hugh McDermott stated in a letter to parents, "These letters can have a negative, damaging and very hurtful meaning."
McDermott urged all students who received a copy of the yearbook to immediately mark out the offending letters as a show of solidarity and ordered new pictures of the seventh-grader to be put over it. The students are rallying behind the targeted student.
“He's resilient, he has a lot of friends and he's gaining a lot more friends as a result of this," said McDermott, who added he takes full responsibility for missing the vandalized picture before the book was printed. The procedure for finalizing the yearbook includes a final edit by a staff member and the principal.
He said he'll work to get more layers of proofreading in for next year. The district didn't take back the yearbooks because the problem wasn't caught until they were already in students’ hands and sixth, seventh and eighth-graders were already writing messages to each other on Thursday.
“It's a teachable moment, it's regrettable," said Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel.
“I can't believe a kid would do that, especially to humiliate another classmate." College freshman Bridget Hansen shutters at the thought of that happening to a classmate and the future implications. “Even the littlest thing can have a big impact on a child."
One mother told Channel 6 News she reached out to the family of the seventh-grader and took candy to the home. She had a message. “We're here if you need us.”
The principal promises that there will be more layers of proof-reading next year.
The district did not take the yearbooks because the problem wasn't caught until they were already in the students hands -- and classmates were already writing messages in them.
New photos of the 7th grader to place in the yearbooks should be available for the students after Memorial Day.