San Diego

Cartoon Stirs Up Controversy at La Jolla High School

A cartoon, published last month in the La Jolla High School newspaper, depicts several racial stereotypes dressed in sweatshirts with offensive slogans.

Now, school and district officials are telling parents they're investigating how the cartoon was published and why. 

“I look at it and I shake my head,” said parent Allegra Loux. “They published this in a high school newspaper? Are you kidding me?”

Loux is shaking her head at a cartoon that depicts people of different ethnicities wearing sweatshirts with language that reflects various ethnic stereotypes. 

"Whoever approved this should not be in that position," said Loux.

Her daughter, Skyla, is a member of the Black Student Union at LJHS.

"I personally felt attacked," the junior admitted. “I don't know why this was even allowed to be released in the school."

Skyla and some of her friends made the cartoon a topic on the school's public message boards inviting students to weigh in.

Oversight was on the minds of many parents in the district Thursday night.

"For me what went through my mind is where was the adult supervision," asked mother Angela Mellow.

The cartoon was supposed to play off a controversial ad from the retail giant H&M. The company got in hot water last month for showing a black child in a sweatshirt that said "coolest monkey in the jungle."

The condemnation was swift.

Celebrities like Lebron James and Snoop Dogg spoke out. Music artist The Weeknd discontinued his partnership with the fashion brand over the ad.

The company said the ad was "entirely unintentional" and hired a diversity leader. 

A letter regarding the cartoon was sent to parents of students Thursday and signed by La Jolla HS Principal Chuck Podhorsky, San Diego Unified School District Area Superintendent Mitzi Merino and Superintendent Cindy Marten.

It said that administrators have talked with the students involved in publishing the cartoon about the responsibility that goes along with the right of free speech.

Here is the statement in full: 

"We are writing to let you know about an incident that occurred recently on our campus. The school newspaper published a cartoon depicting various ethnic groups with their features exaggerated based on ugly racial stereotypes. The decision to publish this cartoon was an error in judgment and a breach of all the values we hold dear at La Jolla High School.

La Jolla High School, like all San Diego Unified schools, prides itself on being open, welcoming and inclusive. Those are the values that make our community strong and unique. Those of us who support those values have an extra obligation to speak out when they are violated. For that reason, we are writing to inform you of this incident and our plan to respond.

La Jolla is a community that values the free speech of our students. However, with the right to free speech comes a responsibility. We have talked to those involved with the publication of this cartoon about this responsibility — and the need to take public ownership of their actions in this case.

Again, we want to say clearly that this cartoon does not represent the values of our community. The language and imagery is offensive and hurtful.

More importantly, we want to communicate to all students who may have been hurt or offended by this incident. We want you to know that San Diego Unified and La Jolla High strive to be welcoming communities, and your well-being matters to all of us.

We have great community partnerships with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and National Conflict Resolution Center, and our schools are well-equipped to continue this conversation in a responsible way. That conversation is starting now at La Jolla High School, and this situation reminds us all that we have more work to do to deliver the future all our children deserve." 

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