Chaska High School officials are removing a page from school yearbooks — which have already been printed — after discovering a photo of a student wearing blackface.
The photo is the latest racially charged incident at the school, part of the Eastern Carver County School District, to have sparked an outcry among parents. Another involved a map circulated on social media featuring photos of black students along with the label “Negro Hill.”
Assistant Principal Jim Swearingen said in a letter to the school community Wednesday that the photo appeared in a section of the yearbook highlighting the school’s annual football game against Chanhassen High School. KSTP reported last fall about the students wearing blackface at the game, noting fans were wearing black attire to support the team.
“During final review of the yearbook we discovered a small picture taken of the student cheer section during that game that included one student in blackface,” he wrote. “As a school community, we have talked about that incident, as well as the racist history behind wearing blackface.”
One parent, Tonya Coleman, disagreed that the incident and blackface’s racist history have been discussed.
“They haven’t had any dialogue about it all, according to many, many parents,” she said.
Coleman spoke at a recent school board meeting about how her daughter faced resistance displaying posters about Black History Month. She said an upcoming town hall will discuss the racial issues, and parents and community members can question the administration and the school board.
Parents in the school district have been demanding changes in recent months. A petition signed by hundreds of people calls for new leadership at Chaska High School, a zero-tolerance anti-racism policy and changes to the curriculum, among other reforms.
Swearingen wrote that the image was discovered after the yearbook was printed but before it was distributed.
Yearbooks were meant to be distributed to seniors on Tuesday, but that was delayed until Thursday. The rest of the school is to receive them in June.
“At no time do we condone the ridicule or demeaning of humans, particularly our own students,” Swearingen wrote. “I apologize that this happened and for the delay in our yearbook distribution.”