The Fremont Union High School District -- which recently discovered a student had purposely planted an anti-Semitic slight in 1,600 current yearbooks to mock a Jewish classmate -- is no stranger to yearbook problems, it turns out.

Last year, two students at Homestead High School in Cupertino purposely hacked into a computer and changed the quote under a senior's photograph to a phrase with homophobic overtones.

"Nothing better than cute boys at the beach!," the altered quote read.

The information about last year's incident surfaced Tuesday after a parent read about the current flap at Monta Vista High School over the insertion of the anti-Semitic taunt by an Indian student and contacted this newspaper.

A school district spokeswoman had not mentioned the previous problem at Homestead when asked Monday about the marring of the Monta Vista yearbooks.

Asked about it Tuesday, spokeswoman Sue Larson said in an email that the student's parents did not want to draw attention to what happened to their son in 2013. Several steps were taken to try to remedy the problem then, she said.

"The page with the error was reprinted by the yearbook company and the victim received approximately 25 copies of the new page in order to correct his yearbook as well as the yearbooks of many of his friends," Larson said. "The original cost of the victim's yearbook was also refunded to him. The boys were barred from graduation."


Advertisement

Larson also said that after the incident came to light, "...stricter yearbook review policies were put in place at Homestead High School in order to help prevent inaccuracies in the future."

But the new policies applied only to that school. Larson said Tuesday, "We will meet with other yearbook advisers from throughout the Fremont Union High School District to insure that review steps are in place so that accurate, informing, and engaging yearbooks are produced."

At Monta Vista, the male perpetrator admitted to school officials that he intentionally changed the last three letters of his classmate's name to "jew" while labeling a team photo. It is unclear whether the Monta Vista boy actually dislikes Jews or was making an insensitive joke that went too far.

Diana Mitsu Klos, executive director of the National Scholastic Press Association, said yearbook pranks are not uncommon nationwide. But she said she's never heard of any based on race, religion, sexual preference or ethnicity, possibly because it is not something schools or parents of victims are eager to advertise.

The parents of the Monta Vista victim, who speak Hebrew at home and have relatives who fled Eastern Europe after the Holocaust, are demanding that the district recall the 2014 yearbooks. But they don't want administrators to explain to students and their families who was involved or what page the slur is on because they are leery of drawing attention to their son. He has told them that jokes about religion and ethnicity are nothing unusual at the school and that he has been trying to laugh off the incident.

Of Monta Vista's 2,351 students, only 16 percent are white. More than three-quarters are Asian, including Indian and Pakistani; almost 3 percent are two or more races; nearly 3 percent are Latino.

Larson has said a recall is still under consideration. But administrators fear it would be "next to impossible" because "it is unlikely that students would be willing to return their yearbooks, which are already filled with messages from their friends and classmates." The yearbooks cost the district $64,000 to produce and sell for $90 apiece.

District officials also plan to educate students about avoiding bigotry. In addition, they offered to reimburse the Monta Vista victim's parents the cost of the yearbook, a refund the Homestead High School student's family accepted.

But the mother of the Monta Vista boy said, "It's not about the cost."

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.