SOUTH LOOP — Jones College Prep officials blacked out an offensive senior quote in the yearbook as parents and local school council members blasted administrators this week for what they felt was an inadequate response to the issue.
Yearbooks issued to graduating seniors June 2 included a senior quote that said, “Build The Wall! Yes We Can! — Bob The Builder.” The quote made it past the review group tasked with ensuring senior quotes aren’t in violation of Jones’ rules, but it created controversy once printed and as images of the caption spread online.
Yearbooks with the caption manually crossed out with a Sharpie were issued to the rest of the students Tuesday.
Later that day, none of the school’s leaders attended the final local school council meeting of the school year, which disappointed some members who said they wanted them to weigh in on the controversy.
Outgoing council member Roberto Menjivar said the caption and the response from school administrators hurt, particularly the co-opting of sí se puede — or “yes, we can” — a phrase coined by activist Dolores Huerta, to insult the school’s Latinx student population.
The quote also appears to reference former President Donald Trump’s repeated cries to build and expand a barrier along the United States’ border with Mexico.
“It’s hateful and unwelcoming. It denies our struggles and our existence. … ‘Bob the Builder’ is an immigrant stereotype about day laborers. Put it in context and it becomes clear. And the response from administrators didn’t address the impact. The quote shouldn’t have been allowed,” Menjivar said.
Prospective parent Bill Choslovsky pushed back on the council’s framing, insisting the debate over the senior quote is about “a matter of free speech.”
“It promotes censorship. I don’t agree with what was said, but this could’ve been a teachable moment,” Choslovsky said.
Through a statement, English teacher Brian Bastyr said the senior quote was “in contradiction to Jones’s mission,” and wrote about a former student who — upon hearing rumors ICE was arresting undocumented residents on the Blue Line — walked two hours to and from school each day.
Other members of the school community said the incident was part of an ongoing issue at Jones, where some students of color have created anonymous social media pages to share their concerns and frustrations about racist and offensive incidents at the school.
While the council members said they hoped administrators would take action against the student, it seems unlikely, said outgoing chairperson Cassie Creswell, who lodged a complaint with the inspector general and Office of Student Protections.
A new local school council is set to take over in the fall. Jones representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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