Student apologizes after hiding profanity on cover of high school yearbook

OHIO — A student tasked with designing the cover of anOhio high school yearbook slipped some profanity into the image, forcingadministrators to temporarily halt distribution.

The cover of Gristmill, the yearbook at Shaker Heights High Schoolin Cleveland, Ohio, featured a hand-drawn image of a crowd of “redraiders” — the school’s Trojan-like mascot. When flippedupside down, the phrase “Fuck All Y’All” is hidden within thesea of red ink.

But the message is hidden so well that even district spokeswoman PeggyCaldwell said she would not have noticed it until someone pointed it out toher.

“In no way are the editors or the adviser to be faulted, in myview,” she said. “There is no way the adviser or the editors couldhave seen the message in there.”

Either the yearbook’s student editors or the adviser, who is also anart teacher, commissioned the artwork, Caldwell said.

School officials discovered the phrase after the artist told some friends,one of whom showed the hidden message to a teacher.

Shaker Heights Principal Michael Griffith stopped distribution of the bookand notified parents with a letter.

“Distribution of this year’s Gristmill was suspendedwhen the faculty and administrators learned that an obscenity was cleverlyconcealed in the cover artwork,” Griffith wrote in the June 4letter.

By that point, about half of the yearbooks had been handed out, Caldwellsaid.

Griffith wrote remaining yearbooks were undergoing “cosmetic surgeryto camouflage the offensive language.” Caldwell said that consisted of anart teacher and two students using Sharpie markers to “put enough extrasquiggles in to camouflage the language.”

In the same letter to the school community, the cover artist issued anapology.

“I cannot begin to explain the miserable feeling I brought uponmyself, when I betrayed the trust of all of you. I apologize for offendinganyone and everyone,” the unnamed student wrote. “It is unfortunatethat I did not recognize the big responsibility and honor given to me when askedto design the cover of the Shaker Heights yearbook.”

Caldwell said the artist was, to her knowledge, the only person who knewabout the hidden phrase before publication. He was forced to make a financialrestitution to the district and clean the art room for a week, which Caldwelladded, “is not real pleasant.”

“The consequences fit the circumstances, and he wasremorseful,” Caldwell said. “I think the resolution was the rightone.”

Caldwell noted the district is the publisher of the yearbook but has a”long standing tradition of letting the students run it.” Officialsdo not censor student work, she added.

A secretary for Griffith referred comment to Caldwell.