SALT LAKE CITY — Highland High School and Salt Lake City School District leaders are apologizing for a student's senior quote in the 2019-2020 yearbook that they are calling hate speech.
The student's quote read: "There are two genders and a lot of mental illnesses."
The yearbooks were distributed Friday, and a Facebook post that same day from another student calling the quote "a clear attack towards the trans community at Highland" has received reactions and comments from tens of thousands of people.
The school and district responded Saturday with statements from both the principal and superintendent.
"Unfortunately, one of the senior quotes in the yearbook included hate speech," the initial statement read after explaining that students received yearbooks later than usual due to COVID-19 delays.
SLCSD Interim Superintendent Larry Madden's statement read:
“This yearbook quote is absolutely unacceptable and in no way reflective of the Salt Lake City School District, the value we place on every student, and the standards we strive to uphold. Let me make it clear that the Salt Lake City School District condemns hate speech in any form. I would also like to issue an apology to any students or community members who have suffered or felt attacked because of this detestable statement. To have something like this included in one of our high school yearbooks is abhorrent. We are committed to providing a safe and equitable learning environment for all students, including our LGBTQIA+ community. To our LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized students I say, please know how deeply your teachers, school administrators, and district leaders care about you and your well-being. This quote was offensive and inappropriate. The district will be conducting a thorough investigation into how this was allowed to happen, and I will be working closely with the new principal at Highland High School to make sure we review the yearbook editing process so that nothing like this ever happens again.”
HHS Principal Jeremy Chatterton, who began his role on July 1, echoed Madden's sentiments and added that counseling is available for those hurt by the quote:
"I want to echo Superintendent Madden’s apology and affirmation that this statement is in no way reflective of our beliefs or practices at Highland High School or in the Salt Lake City School District. The inclusion of this quote in the yearbook is more than just an administrative oversight; it is an affront, an attack on our Highland community and our LGBTQIA+ community in particular. As principal, I will not allow hate speech like this in my school community. While the student in question has graduated, I want to reassure community members that I will take the steps necessary to make sure something like this is never allowed to happen again. I know many in our community have been deeply hurt by this quote. We care about the mental well-being of our students and will make counselors available to any students who have been impacted by this statement and wish to speak to someone. Please email me at Jeremy.Chatterton@slcschools.org to set up an appointment with a counselor.”