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Oak Park River Forest High School Withholds Yearbooks After Discovering Photos Of Students Making Racist Hand Gesture Associated With White Power Movement

CHICAGO (CBS)--Photos of students making a hand gesture associated with racism have caused school officials at Oak Park River Forest High School District 200 to halt distribution of the 2018-19 yearbook.

Superintendent Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams sent an email to parents and students this week notifying them of the photos and the school's decision not to release the version of the yearbook as is.

The email from Pruitt-Adams reads:

"We've been made aware that this year's 'Tabula' yearbook, which has not yet been distributed, contains several photos of students making a hand gesture that has different meanings. In some cases it's used in what is known as the circle game. However, the gesture has more recently become associated with white nationalism. Regardless of intent, the potential negative impact of this gesture has led us to decide that we cannot distribute the yearbook as is. We are looking at alternative options, and in the coming days we will share further details about distribution plans. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and support as we work through this situation." 

Known as the "circle game," the gesture is formed by making an "ok" symbol with the fingers and turning the hand into a downward position. The symbol has recently been associated with far-right racist groups that advocate for "white power".

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The emergence of the hand symbol as a sign of racism is an example of how hate groups have been able to penetrate American culture.

The sign, once known as a harmless game, has recently taken on a new connotation as an offensive symbol of racial intolerance.

A statement from District 200 officials said school faculty is still figuring out how to replace the images.

School officials did not respond to an inquiry about whether the yearbooks had been printed, what the costs were and whether the students making the gestures in the photos would be reprimanded.

"The administration understands the importance of the yearbook to high school students, especially graduating seniors," the statement from the school said. "Our goal is to seek resolution on the yearbook as soon as possible."


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