Springbrook students told to return yearbooks over bullying page -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated at 11 a.m. June 10, 2013.

Students at Springbrook High School were told to bring their yearbooks back to school Friday to have certain pages replaced after the principal realized the book included staged photos of freshmen being bullied by upperclassmen.

Students created the page, titled “Aliens versus Predators,” as a joke, Principal Samuel Rivera said.

But nothing about it is funny, Rivera said. The school does not condone bullying, he said.

“I’m sorry that this happened,” he said. “It is an unfortunate event. Clearly we did not exercise enough oversight of the yearbook, and that is certainly going to change.”

One photo shows a senior pinning a freshman against a wall while two other seniors intimidate another freshman close by. In other photos, one upperclassman gives a freshman a wedgie while another has one in a headlock.

“When freshmen first arrive at high school, it’s survival of the fittest,” the page states.

In a phone message Thursday night, Rivera told students to bring their books to the school starting Friday to have the pages that mention bullying replaced. Students could also choose to receive a full refund for their books, he said in the message.

Jean Jarman, who has a 10th-grader at the school, said she and her son were both disgusted by the page. She called the school to complain.

“I don’t consider bullying funny, in any way, shape or form,” she said.

There are also references to bullying on other pages that Rivera said are inappropriate.

Susan Burkinshaw, the health and safety co-chairwoman of the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations said she could tell by looking at the photos it was supposed to be a satire, but students should not think bullying is funny, she said.

Burkinshaw said it is up to the principal at each school to create a culture and tone at the school so that all students are treated nicely. She said that is the case at most county schools she has been to.

The yearbook class at Springbrook High may have lacked guidance this year, as the adviser was on leave and the class was being run by a long-term substitute for much of the school year, Rivera said.

Still, Rivera said he takes full responsibility for the inappropriate content in the book.

About 200 yearbooks have been sold, and the rest will be sent back to the book company, Rivera said.

The school does not have plans to sell more yearbooks, he wrote in an email Friday.

The students who worked on the yearbook are “very disappointed and hurt,” he wrote.

“Their intent was certainly not [to] make light of a serious issue,” he wrote.

Rivera said he worries about his school’s reputation in the community. Since his school is part of a consortium, students can choose to go there, or not, he said.

“It is important that the image we portray is this is a safe school and this is a good school,” he said. “... We work hard to get that message to the community. And then something like this happens and it throws us back.”

Ann Coletti, another parent at the school, wrote in an email she was surprised to see the photos, because they are inconsistent with the culture at the school.

“We’ve always felt comfortable and safe at the school,” she wrote. “I know that bullying is not tolerated at Springbrook, not by the staff, students, or PTA. I have never seen or heard of any hazing at Springbrook High School, nor have other parents or students that I spoke with.”

Chris Biamonte, who has three children in Montgomery County Public Schools, said if this happened in her child’s school, she would be “outraged.”

A friend of Jarman’s, Biamonte saw the page after Jarman posted about it on her Facebook page.

It hit her hard, she said, as one of her children has had a bad experience with bullying.

“I am just really upset about it,” Biamonte said. “They are making a joke out of it. And it is the furthest thing from a joke.”

Rivera said his school does not allow bullying, and any issue is dealt with immediately.

He said he will make sure the new adviser shares with students early on next year what is appropriate for the yearbook, and what the school “stands for.” The administration will also be closely monitoring what is published from now on, he said.

“My concern it is going to detract from all the good [at this school],” he said.