Corrective Sticker, Stronger Oversight Planned After SLP Yearbook Gaffe

St. Louis Park School District Interim Superintendent Katherine Maguire said that a corrective sticker would be issued to fix an error in the SLP High School yearbook that angered district parents earlier in the week

An entry in Echowan, the school’s yearbook, called out Israel for declaring war on Hamas on Oct. 8, without mention of the terrorist organization’s attack the preceding day. The yearbook includes a couple of notable news items for each month of the school year. The first entry for October reads: “On October 8, 2023, Israel formally declared war on Hamas. The death toll reached about 1,100 on both sides, and Israel increased airstrikes on Gaza.”

An entry from the St. Louis Park High School yearbook that reads: “On October 8, 2023, Israel formally declared war on Hamas. The death toll reached about 1,100 on both sides, and Israel increased airstrikes on Gaza.”

An entry from the St. Louis Park High School yearbook reads: “On October 8, 2023, Israel formally declared war on Hamas. The death toll reached about 1,100 on both sides, and Israel increased airstrikes on Gaza.”

“The current events section of the yearbook contained misinformation, and it should have contained what happened on Oct. 7,” Maguire wrote in an email to the school district. “I am deeply sorry for the harm this has caused to our community. Ultimately, I am responsible for all district communication, including what was printed in the yearbook.”

The sticker that will be distributed will read: “On October 7, Hamas launched an attack on Israeli civilians, killing over 1,200 and taking over 253 hostages. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas on October 8.”

When the stickers will arrive at the school is yet to be determined. According to a district communications specialist, Josten’s — the company that printed the yearbook — gave an estimate of 10 days for the stickers to be printed; the district is looking into other options. Yearbook distribution has resumed; the last day of school for graduating seniors is Friday, May 31; the rest of the school finishes on June 6. Per a district communications specialist, seniors have to come back to school for diploma pickup by June 10 so they can get the sticker at that time.

In a statement from Sami Rahamim, the director of communications and community affairs at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, he said: “We appreciate that St. Louis Park High School will issue a corrective sticker that properly identifies the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 as the cause of this awful war. We remain committed to working for structural change with SLP leaders on behalf of Jewish students and families. “

Maguire met with students, staff, and the JCRC on Thursday, May 23, leading up to Friday’s email. Maguire said that they will support the students and yearbook advisor by “implementing a more robust and inclusive review process before each section is submitted for publication.”

“We will continue to proactively engage with students, families, staff, and community partners to ensure we are responsive to the needs and concerns of our community. This will help us create a more inclusive and supportive school environment that reflects our mission and organizational core values,” she wrote. “We are committed to learning and improving our processes to ensure that all students and families feel valued and respected.”

Ben Schein, one of the Jewish parents who has been engaging with the school district about its communications since Oct. 7, said that, while he is glad the administration takes responsibility, it is still minimizing the harm done by the original statement.

“This is not just about printing an incorrect fact. Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 and murdered over 1,000 Jews, took many more hostage, and committed unspeakable atrocities,” he said. “That is a fact that our Jewish community must continue to live with, and we would have hoped that the district could acknowledge it in the aftermath of a deeply upsetting yearbook entry. We will be working to ensure that subsequent communications can capture more of this sentiment. We will continue to work in partnership with district leadership. This work is not easy but it is the work we need to do and worth doing.”

Yearbook distribution began on May 21 at the school, and dozens of families notified Paddock later that day. One email shared with TC Jewfolk told Paddock that it was a “very one-sided, triggering narrative.” The first school-wide communication that went to families was sent on Wednesday evening when SLPHS Principal LaNisha Paddock emailed apologies from herself and the student staff of the yearbook to high school families. It was the first school-wide communication that went out. 

“There was misinformation in the current events section that caused harm, particularly to our Jewish families within the school community. This is unacceptable,” the email said. “We understand that publishing inaccurate and incomplete information is both traumatizing and hurtful. As a human and the principal for St. Louis Park High School, I feel devastated that this situation has caused distress to our school community.”

A St. Louis Park Jewish families WhatsApp group said it would be akin to the 1942 yearbook said: “On December 8th, the U.S. declared war on Japan and thousands were killed on both sides,” while not acknowledging the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In the email, Paddock said the yearbook intends to honor all students, but acknowledged the school fell short of the goal. 

“The inaccuracies in the yearbook do not reflect the values of inclusivity and respect that we strive to uphold,” Paddock wrote. 

The Echowan is a student-led publication, although their is a staff member that serves as an advisor. “As a school district, we take responsibility for the lack of a substantial review process,” Paddock wrote.

The apology from the student yearbook staff said: “The statement for the Israel-Hamas conflict in October contains misleading information and an unfortunate omission.

“We overlooked the inclusion of the terrorist attacks on Oct. 7. This omission was unintentional, and we are deeply apologetic about our ignorance in not including this day in the yearbook. This mistake is fully ours, and we understand that leaving out this day erased the lived experience of many of our students, families, and community members. 

“We understand that this apology will not undo the harm and trauma that we caused. As a student-run organization, we are learning from and reflecting on our mistake to ensure it doesn’t happen again. In the future, we will implement a better proofing process that includes intentional consideration of the many perspectives of our student population.”