A High Tech High School legal review into an “88” yearbook quote, which the Anti-Defamation League defines as white supremacist code for “Heil Hitler,” has determined that the student had no knowledge of this meaning and was referring to a North Bergen park.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“The investigation involved the interview of students who expressed concerns with regard to this incident. The greater majority of people canvassed were unaware of the consequence of this symbol,” wrote HSCT Counsel John Dineen in a legal review published yesterday.
“Furthermore, as often is the case in a high school setting, if the content was indeed for hateful purposes, the ‘whispering walls’ would have brought it to the attention of some of the students over the five-month period during the vetting process that attendant inappropriate symbols would appear. No such sub-current of student informed knowledge has been revealed.”
He continued that the student who used the 88 quote was interviewed, noting that he is still a minor and was “shocked and dismayed” to find out that there was a negative connotation associated with 88 since he was referring to a park near his home.
“What is readily verifiable is that his explanation of his intention was to reference for his North Bergen colleagues that park which they all hung out in growing up, 88th St. Park. In the North Bergen parlance ’88’ is a reference to that park and has been for many years.”
8801 Durham Ave. is often referred to as 88th Street Park, and while it is considered a dog park to some, it also has playground equipment and a basketball court.
Dineen also writes that the student’s intentions were “pure and without malice” and the negative connotation with the number has “hijacked his character and good name.”
In an email to parents this morning, HCST Superintendent of Schools Amy Lin-Rodriguez said she wanted to address “misinformation” related to the incident circulation on social media and indicated that the investigation is considered closed for now.
“We take the concerns of our community members seriously. While we believe the evidence and testimony in this case shows it to be an extremely unfortunate matter and not a malicious act; as a school district we nevertheless recognize that this situation has been offensive and hurtful to members of our community,” she wrote,
“We are exploring ways to bring our community together and exhibit that we absolutely do not condone any instances of bias, hate, discrimination or unequal treatment of anyone. As a school district, this is a teachable moment on every level.”
Furthermore, Lin-Rodriguez stated that any student who wishes to return their yearbook will receive a full refund.
The controversy was initially brought to light by a Change.org petition, which has over 800 signatures as of this morning, calling for an apology, acknowledgment that a hate symbol was published, and for a replacement yearbook page to be issued.
The students who started the petition have chided the HCST administration since they announced on Tuesday that an investigation was underway and that they couldn’t comment further until it was completed, as HCV first reported.