Colo. high school officials object to yearbook’s Spanish title on cover

COLORADO — Denver West High School’s principal plans to engage in prior review of the school’s future yearbooks after the 2005 edition’s Spanish-language cover raised concerns from listeners of a radio show.

Although nearly 90 percent of the school’s students are Hispanic, Principal Angie Bodenhamer said an English title on the cover is preferable.

“We are an American school, an English-speaking school,” Bodenhamer told the Rocky Mountain News.

Although the yearbook arrived to students on May 5, it began drawing attention outside of the school on May 17, when local radio talk-show host Peter Boyles discussed the yearbook’s Spanish text on his morning show.

¿Quienes somos en verdad?” reads the cover. Its English translation (“Who are we really?”) appears on the back cover of the yearbook.

The yearbook’s adviser, Jerry Clayton, said he did not find the cover objectionable.

“The discussion that was going on in the community about the issue of the yearbook really had very little to do with the yearbook at all,” he said. “It was a discussion of immigration issues, Spanish-language issues and other agendas that people had.

“It’s a student publication written by students for students,” Clayton continued. “I don’t think that was the perspective of the people who had issues with it.”

The yearbook staff printed the cover in Spanish to better reflect the students at the school rather than for a political reason, Clayton said.

“One of the reasons that I think the kids really liked what they did with the yearbook is the fact that it honors and respects their culture,” he explained.

Joe Torres, deputy director of communication and media policy at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Washington, D.C., said it is important to remember that because of the high percentage of Spanish speakers at the school, the language is not foreign there.

The words were not offensive and the students created a yearbook that reflected the majority of the school, Torres added.

“What it says to the students is being Hispanic isn’t good enough,” he said. “They’re expressing who they are and they’re being told that’s not good.”

Delio Tamayo is a member of the Rocky Mountain News Hispanic Advisory Council, a group that helps to improve the newspaper’s coverage of the Latino community in Denver. Tamayo said he was glad that the story seemed to die down quickly, because the concern over the yearbook was unwarranted.

“I just came back from Colombia and I actually saw a lot of billboards and advertisements in English,” Tamayo said. “People [in Colombia] didn’t make a big deal about it.”

The criticism of the yearbook is discouraging for the students, especially because their principal does not seem to be defending them, Torres explained.

“It’s tough to be in the spotlight and to challenge people,” Torres said. “For that kind of spotlight to be on them it can be very intimidating — they’re kids.”

Clayton said he is not concerned that the principal’s decision to engage in prior review will affect the student’s control of the yearbook.

Bodenhamer did not return calls for comment.

–By Mike Hart