San Diego

Racial Slur Printed on Cover of San Diego Area Middle School's Yearbook

The school is scrambling to fix what the school district called an honest mistake.

Several students found a racial slur on the cover of a San Diego-area school yearbook, after more than 1,000 copies were printed and hundreds had already been handed out.

Eighth-grade students at Black Mountain Middle School in the Poway Unified School District (PUSD) first noticed the slur, located on a map of San Diego County from the 1800s. The map was used as a background on the yearbook's cover. 

The racial slur, written on the historical map, is located near Palomar Mountain, once the home of freed slave Nate Harrison. 

When the students noticed the racial slur, they brought it to the attention of the school. 

School employees scratched the word off of more than 1,000 yearbooks. Students will receive their yearbooks Wednesday, the district said.

The school is scrambling to fix what the school district called an honest mistake. 

But some parents said it's not enough just to cross out the word.

"It's not appropriate in an eighth-grade yearbook. It's unfortunate," said Darlene Willis, with the Concerned Parents Alliance. "We just have to all be more conscious of paying attention and checking and double checking and triple checking to make sure it's not offensive to folks and the current language they have is offensive."

Willis' two sons graduated from Black Mountain Middle School years ago. She now works with Concerned Parents Alliance, which partners with PUSD.

"We've got some work to do," Willis said. "I think this is the perfect opportunity for the school district to do more cultural sensitivity and make sure that those folks that are in charge of things like this, that they read and re-read, double check, triple check so that doesn't happen again. Not in 2017. We can't go back again in time."

But other parents did not have as harsh words. 

Martha Parham, a former PUSD employee now with the Concerned Parent Alliance called the incident a "teachable moment."

"I don't think that it needs to be re-printed, but I do believe that if they do remove it, it needs to be totally explained to kids why," Parham said.

Christine Paik, a spokesperson for the district, told NBC 7 a message was sent to parents following the incident.

Read the message to parents below. 

"In using a historical map from the 1800's of northern San Diego County, our staff and yearbook editors inadvertently used a background image for the cover of this year's yearbook containing a highly offensive racial term. This was a reference to an area of San Diego County on Palomar Mountain which was once known as the home of a freed slave, and referred to with a very derogatory label. We deeply regret this error and have recalled all yearbooks distributed to grade 8 students and will delay distributing the books to our grade 6 and 7 students. We understand how important the yearbooks are to our students and are working on getting their memories to them. We are making the correction and will redistribute the yearbooks as soon as possible. Please contact us with any concerns."

The district said counselors would be available for parents or students who want to discuss the printing error.

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