Hanover High students in hot water for making obscene gesture
I found this article in the Online version of the Hanover Evening Sun on May 22, 2000.
'Crude practical joke' made during yearbook photos leads to disciplinary action.
Evening Sun Reporter
Thirty-four Hanover High students face disciplinary action and will be excluded from some group photos in the school's yearbook because they made an obscene gesture when those photos were originally taken, according to high school principal John P. Cokefair.
Those students will be asked to perform community service at the school on June 14 as a result of what Cokefair referred to as "a crude practical joke" in a letter sent to their parents Thursday.
The letter goes on to say the "group pictures will be retaken without the offending individuals in the new photograph," and the expenses for retaking the photos "will be borne equally by all offenders."
Not all parents are happy with the punishment.
Debi Bond, whose daughter Nicole was among those involved in the incident, is upset because students will be omitted from some group photos, leaving the yearbook incomplete.
Bond said she has been on the telephone with other high school parents since receiving the letter Thursday. She said a parents' group is planning to address the school board at Tuesday evening's 7 p.m. meeting in the Hanover Public School District board room at the high school.
The group photos in question were taken throughout the school year, but the obscene gestures were not discovered until the spring athletic season when a coach brought the photos to the attention of school officials, Cokefair said.
Tuesday, the groups involved were called together and told of the discovery. The innocent students were allowed to return to their classrooms while the offenders stayed behind to learn of their punishment.
That punishment was outlined in the letter sent home to parents.
The offending students are required to report to the high school no later than 8 a.m. June 14 to perform community service, according to the letter sent to parents.
"Seniors involved will not receive their diplomas until the community service has been completed," the letter stated. "Failure to attend will mean that the diploma will be issued by the Board of School Directors at their discretion. Underclassmen who fail to attend will be issued a three-day out-of-school suspension for defiance to be served on the first three days of the 2000-2001 school year."
Bond says she has "no problem" with punishing the students in some way, but is concerned about the omissions that will result in the yearbook.
She thinks of the yearbook as a historical record that will not be preserved if the school deletes student photographs and names.
"I feel that somebody is trying to mess with a history book," she said.
She also has concerns for those people who are not parents of offending students and are not aware of the alterations to the yearbook, which they paid for last fall, Bond said.
Bond said her daughter Nicole, a member of the drama club, told her about the issue when school officials first started inspecting the group pictures.
However, Nicole said the gesture was perceived by other students to be a joke, and said only two of the four girls who made it understood its meaning.
"No one took it seriously," she said.
Bond said the gesture has been made in previous yearbooks, and no students were punished. She pointed out a 1998 photo of Students Against Drunk Driving in which the gesture was made.
"The fact that it appears in other yearbooks does not justify the widespread use of it this year," Cokefair said.
He said the reference was "so horrific" that some students could not even speak of it. In his letter to parents, he suggested "perhaps your child will elaborate when you have a talk about this matter."
"To show that symbol in a team photo is disrespectful to the team, to the school and to the community," Cokefair said Friday. "Doing it has hurt the feelings of many of the staff people here at the high school and probably students who have not come forward, who are probably too shy to come forward to say so."
Cokefair said the discipline was carefully thought out.
"There has been a cost involved," he said. "There has been embarrassment involved, and the yearbook advisors and the yearbook staff will have to do a tremendous amount of work that cannot be compensated."
Cokefair fears some of the students have minimized the impact of their actions.
"The impact is more significant than they're giving it credit for," he said.
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