SOUTH LOOP — One of Chicago’s top high schools is embroiled in controversy yet again.
A graduating senior’s yearbook photo at Jones College Prep surfaced on Twitter June 2 with the quote, “Build the wall!! Yes we can!! -Bob The Builder” creating a firestorm at the CPS selective-enrollment high school. The quote refers to comments made by former President Donald Trump who wanted to build a wall to keep Mexican and South American immigrants out of the country.
In a statement to Jones’ students and staff, school administrators said the unidentified student was able to get the quote past the yearbook’s staff peer review process.
“There were senior quotes submitted and there was a quote that was inappropriate and was harmful to some people. There was a system in place that involved peer review of the quotes. We will be reviewing this process moving forward to avoid something like this happening again. We apologize to the school community for this oversight,” read the statement.
Twenty-nine percent of Jones’ student body identifies as Latinx.
The incident is the latest in what has been a turbulent year for the high school, which began with the suspension of a longtime theater teacher accused of making inappropriate comments last fall. The school then found itself the subject of an investigation for Title IX violations earlier this year after complaints of unequal treatment in Jones’ athletic department. Another case was opened against Principal Joseph Powers after he allegedly violated Chicago Public Schools’ residency requirement, the district allowing the beleaguered principal to remain at the school.
Outgoing local school council chairperson Cassie Cresswell, who told Block Club that the incident will be discussed at the council’s final meeting Tuesday, said she was disappointed by the quote.
“After years of students bringing up inadequate responses to racist incidents, here is one that made it into print in the school yearbook and the response is still inadequate. Faculty and staff went through 12 months of antiracist training in 2021 … and yet here we are in 2022. We get a response that says, ‘We’re sorry and we’ll try to avoid this happening again.’ That’s insufficient,” Creswell said.
Creswell said that antiracist training cost $50,000.
Creswell said that the incident and the response are clear violations of the district’s “Bullying and Bias-based Behaviors” policy, which she reported to the district’s inspector general and Office of Student Protections. She has yet to receive a response.
It is unclear whether the student will face disciplinary action or if the student yearbooks will be recalled and reissued. Creswell said it’s “unlikely.”
“Seniors already received theirs more than a week ago, and it doesn’t sound like the school has any plans to do that. That’s something that you would have done within the first 48 hours of realizing that this is now in print,” Creswell said.
Attempts to reach school administrators were unsuccessful as Principal Powers is on vacation until June 30. CPS officials did not answer further questions about the incident.
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