QUESTION: Is it true that the publisher of Southern High School’s yearbook for 2020-21 is offering to refund the purchase price to buyers who find it objectionable? How many people have asked for refunds?
ANSWER: The publisher is not offering to refund the purchase price for the 2020-21 Southern High School yearbook, ABSS public information officer Jenny Faulkner told The Alamance News Wednesday.
The current price for the Southern High School yearbook is $100, though it was offered at a discounted price of $65 when pre-ordering began at the beginning of the school year in August, Faulkner said.
School board members adjourned their regularly-scheduled meeting last Monday night after 40 minutes – before taking up any of the items on their agenda – following a public comment period that turned into a shouting match. Eight people spoke during public comments; five focused on the latest annual for Southern High School.
One parent characterized an eight-page special section in Southern High School’s yearbook as promoting “hate, violence, and division” and “anti-police” – overtly political positions that she said have no place in school.
The other four speakers, including a 2020 Southern High School graduate, were supportive of the yearbook staff, saying that the eight-page special section represented a snapshot of the most newsworthy events of the past year and hadn’t endorsed any specific political viewpoint.
Miles Johnston of Graham, whose daughter is the current editor for Southern High School’s yearbook, said last week that, while prior editions had received numerous accolades for excellence in student media and journalistic integrity from the state Scholastic Media Association and the publisher, Missouri-based Walsworth Yearbooks. His daughter has been bullied online because of an eight-page special section in a 240-page yearbook. “They have called my daughter and her fellow student journalists ‘Marxist radicals’ and ‘liberal trash’ on social media,” Johnston told school board members during public comments last week. “The controversy revolves around the delusion that these layouts are included in order to push forward an agenda.”
The special section in the yearbook consists of four two-page layouts, based on photocopies obtained by The Alamance News. Each of the two-page layouts carries a banner, reading: “From Hashtag to Movement,” focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement; “The Notorious RBG,” featuring the life and accomplishments of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September 2020; and “Voting Voices,” where 18-year-old students describe why they were inspired to vote for the first time. [The “Voting Voices” section also has a quote from Southern High School student Katie Graves, describing her reaction when she found out her mom, Sandy Ellington-Graves, had won a seat on the school board in November.] The fourth two-page spread, titled “President of the People,” shows a timeline for the 2020 presidential election, which “kept citizens on the edge of their seats,” from the first presidential and vice presidential debates (on September 29 and October 7, respectively) until Inauguration Day on January 20.