Quaker Valley apologizes after yearbook includes Hitler, Stalin quotes
Quotations attributed in the Quaker Valley High School yearbook to a terrorist and two of history's most notorious mass murderers — Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — have district leaders apologizing and offering refunds to families.
In an email Wednesday to parents, Quaker Valley School District leaders apologized for “offensive” quotes published in the graduating class section of the yearbook, which was distributed to students Monday.
“This is a regrettable mistake, as the school district would never knowingly condone this messaging in a school-sponsored publication,” the statement — signed by Superintendent Heidi Ondek, high school Principal Deborah Riccobelli and yearbook sponsor and English teacher Tamra Rosa — said. “We are well aware of the emotions this has conjured in many of our students and their families, and for that we are sorry.”
“Though the content of the quotes was reviewed thoroughly, the attributions clearly were not,” the statement said.
District spokeswoman Angela Yingling said students bring quotes in for approval and that “publishing the quotes is a shared responsibility of the yearbook staff, sponsor and administration.”
She did not say if students or the yearbook sponsor would face punishment.
The quotations in question include, “Words build bridges into unexplored regions,” attributed to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler; “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, so why would we let them have ideas?” attributed to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin; and “Be just: the unjust never prosper. Be valiant. Keep your word, even to your enemies,” attributed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.
Senior Dominique Cagliuso said she was disappointed to see the quotes from fellow classmates and wondered how the quotations made it in.
“It makes the entire senior class look badly,” she said. “It's also confusing how nobody caught it before it went out.
“It's one thing to have a silly quote from your favorite TV show, but to have a quote from dictators is disrespectful.”
Cagliuso said she likely would opt for stickers — to be offered by the district — to cover the quotations before her graduation party.
“When I'm passing it around with my family, I don't want them to see that part of it.”
Yingling said 360 yearbooks were distributed. Costs for the yearbooks range from $69 “but can be more than $100, depending on if the student opted to get their name engraved on the front,” she said.
The district is offering students a refund for those wishing not to keep the yearbooks and are offering stickers to cover up “any offensive quotations,” the district said in a statement.
School board President Sarah Heres said she is “confident steps will be taken to ensure this lack of oversight does not happen again.”
“The board is pleased with the swift response from the school administration,” she said. “We are glad to see options for students and families regarding this year's publication.”
The high school enrolls more than 630 students in grades 9 through 12, according to its website.
Bobby Cherry is a Tribune-Review staff writer.