School Newsletter Includes Racist Cartoon

A substitute secretary at a California middle school mistook a supposedly satiric drawing, part of a three-year-old hate-crime investigation, for an innocuous Peanuts strip.

Posted: 12/22/2011 05:35 PM EST

An apparently careless mistake by an office staffer has put a northern California middle school in the national spotlight.


When compiling Sequoia Middle School's newsletter that normally includes school announcements, current events and occasional cartoons, a substitute secretary apparently mistook a racist cartoon for a harmless comic. The newsletter, then sent to Sequoia parents and other subscribers, included a Peanuts cartoon showing a Black figurine with a noose around his neck. Under the character read the words “White Pride.”


"We will be making procedural and security changes to prevent such travesties from happening again," Principal Connie Cirimeli wrote in a letter to the school community Sunday.  


The substitute secretary took the image as an innocuous cartoon, but the image was actually a photograph taken by school officials three years ago after someone defaced the campus mural with racist graffiti. The photo was among evidence collected for the police investigation.


"Friday, a substitute secretary was working on the newsletter during a busy afternoon and embedded the image without examining it closely enough to recognize its content," Cirimeli wrote. "It is office protocol that any public distribution of information be proofread by a second employee and given to the office manager for final approval before publishing.”


In an effort to prevent future problems, the school will now store digital crime evidence on secured computers and all publications will be approved by administrators.


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(Photo: Sacramento Bee/MCT/Landov)