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Land O'Lakes High yearbook caption creates a stir

LAND O'LAKES — As yearbook gaffes go, it could have been worse.

Still, a mysterious, last-minute photo caption in this year's Land O'Lakes High School yearbook The Swamp Series caused an uproar and forced staff to work overtime as censors.

The offending passage was next to a photo of physical education teacher Jamie Martin, who was suspended for one day after a student accused her of hitting him. The accusation later proved to be false, but Martin was disciplined for visiting with a former student instead of supervising her class.

"Well, you kind of know what happened here," the caption said. "Coach Martin was accused of hitting a student, when actually the student lied just because he was mad at her for no reason. She said that at the time she was worried that she was going to lose her job, but now Coach Martin is just glad it's behind her."

School district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said the passage was caught after all 500 books were printed but before they were handed out to students. No one knows who wrote the passage, which was added after the final edit. Staffers cut out the passage and replaced it with a sticker that said, "Due to an unfortunate editing error, a small section of the yearbook has been removed. We apologize for the inconvenience."

Romagnoli said the school is investigating the situation but may not be able to solve the mystery, so she could not comment on any possible consequences.

"At this time, it does not appear that we will figure out who is responsible," she said.

This is not the first time gaffes have marred a Pasco County yearbook.

Joe Geier, former adviser to The Wildcat at Wesley Chapel High, had to deal with a photo of a student making an offensive hand gesture in 2005.

"When the books came in and we were looking through them to make sure they all looked good, one of my students pointed it out," recalled Geier. "Apparently I wasn't as 'with it' as I thought."

Geier called the yearbook company, which printed a sticker of a new photo that went on top of the offending one. Parents came in and made sure stickers went in each copy of the book.

"This kind of stuff happens," Geier said. "You have to remember that you're working with a group of young people and they will want to test the boundaries. Or they will just make an honest mistake. You do your best to try to correct it before it leaves your classroom."

Nationally, there has been no shortage of yearbook embarrassments.

Last year, staffers of the WaWa at Wenatchee High School in Washington state had to cut a single page out of all 1,100 yearbooks after a student used words describing weight instead of names to identify two girls in photos, according to the Wenatchee World.

At Rocky Mountain Middle School in Utah, a staffer drew flak from a mom whose children had been forced to remove breast cancer awareness bracelets with the word "boobies" on them. When the mom saw the 2011 yearbook had another slang word for breast included on a cover that was supposed to look like graffiti, she complained. The word was there, staffers said, because it was the nickname of a student at the school.

The controversy prompted the school district to review its yearbook publication policies.

In Easton, Pa., an out-of-context quote from Hitler caused trouble at a local high school in 2010.

"And in the last analysis, success is what matters," the quote said. It was given to the media in a secret meeting just before the Kristallnacht, or night of the broken glass, which was the first major assault on Jewish people.

The school ended up covering it with a decal.

Researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report, which included information from the Wenatchee World, the Salt Lake Tribune and the (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call.

Land O'Lakes High yearbook caption creates a stir 05/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:11am]

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