High Tech opens up probe over potential ‘hate symbol’ in yearbook as petition demands action

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High Tech High School confirmed they have opened up a probe into a possible “hate symbol” making its way into the 2020 yearbook, shortly after an online petition surfaced yesterday demanding the administration to take action.

Photo via Change.org.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“We call on the Hudson County NJ Schools of Technology (HCST) Superintendent Lin-Rodriguez and the Board of Education NOW to address the fact that HTHS produced and distributed a yearbook that contains a symbol that appears in the Anti-Defamation League’s hate symbol database and that an objective observer would reasonably interpret to be a hate symbol,” an online petition with 425 signatures as of 1 p.m. says.

“The students and the school community have a right to a yearbook free of hate speech and symbols.”

The symbol in question is the number 88, which one student, identified by classmates as the son of a North Bergen school administrator, gave as his yearbook quote.

The petition also points out that according to the Anti-Defamation League, 88 “is a white supremacist numerical code for ‘Heil Hitler.’”

Additionally, the Change.org post calls for the school to acknowledge that a hate symbol made its way into the yearbook and apologize, both for allowing its publication and for a delay in their time to respond, as well as offering to issue a replacement page of the yearbook to their senior students for free.

Hudson County Schools of Technology Superintendent of Schools Amy Lin-Rodriguez said that all of their schools embrace positive learning environments and this particular matter is being investigated, preventing any further discussion due to state statute.

“The entire Hudson County Schools of Technology community prides itself on being an open and welcoming learning environment where students of all backgrounds can feel comfortable and supported,” she said in a statement.

“Recently, an issue was brought to our attention by concerned parents regarding the High Tech High School yearbook. Pursuant to district policy and state law, we have opened an investigation into the situation that is being conducted by our District Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) Coordinator. State law precludes the district from commenting on the matter any further until that investigation is completed.”

An email to Lin-Rodriguez from a school parent obtained by HCV indicated that HIB investigations were supposed to be completed within 10 days and that he felt like the district was not taking the matter as seriously as they should.

“… By not calling me all week, and by offering me a meeting scheduled a week away, you gave me no choice but to create a written email record to you. Please recall that my initial communications were collegial offers to help since I’ve gone through a similar experience as a superintendent before,” he wrote.

“I do hope that this communication ends up being appreciated and not resented by you as you realize that the district does not need to wait for the HIB investigation to play out before acting. On the contrary, it will be too late then. You have an opportunity and a responsibility to act. Please do so promptly.”