Watch CBS News

Yearbook controversy involving Jewish Student Union photo under investigation at N.J. high school

New Jersey yearbook controversy discussed at school board meeting
New Jersey yearbook controversy discussed at school board meeting 01:38

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- An investigation is underway in East Brunswick, New Jersey after a yearbook controversy that some are calling antisemitic.

Picture of Jewish Student Union replaced in East Brunswick High School yearbook

This week at East Brunswick High School, roughly 700 seniors received their yearbooks. In the section reserved for student groups, notably missing were the names of the Jewish Student Union members, and instead of a picture of the Jewish student group, the yearbook ran a picture of a group of Muslim students.

East Brunswick School Superintendent Victor Valeski says an investigation is already underway to find out what happened. He confirmed the issue did occur on the school's end and was not the fault of the publisher.

"But right now, I don't see anything that points us to an intentional act. But I'm not ruling that out until we complete the investigation," he said.

Officials are looking at the digital footprint of the creation of the yearbook to see what happened and make sure it never happens again.

The Jewish Student Union sent CBS New York a statement saying in part "erasure of Jewish students will not be tolerated," adding that the group will eagerly await the results of the superintendent's investigation.

Backlash from the community was swift. The mayor called the yearbook issue a blatant antisemitic act.

"The types of content changes and omissions that we observe appear on the surface to be potentially deliberate and malicious. But not knowing all the facts, at a minimum, they could be negligent," said Lisa Karasic, with the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.

The school district is asking all 700 yearbooks to be returned by Friday so that one page can be fixed. A replacement yearbook is expected to be ready by graduation next week.

The district will eat the cost of fixing that one page in every yearbook -- about $1,000 total.

If needed, the high school will offer counseling to any student requesting it.

East Brunswick schools superintendent recommends independent investigation into yearbook controversy

At a school district meeting Thursday night, the superintendent said, "There was a gross lack of oversight in the creation of that page for the yearbook." He's now recommending an independent investigation.

Abigail Aronovich, a member of the Jewish Student Union, says antisemitism is blatant in the school.

"I find it hard to see it as an error ... We've been having an issue with antisemitism at the school. That's why we're here today. It's a build-up. It's a cause and effect," she said.

Some say the Muslim community is also feeling a backlash, and before any conclusions are made, the investigation needs to take its course.

"We need to find out what happened here. Clearly something went wrong," parent Zahid Mehmood said. "I honestly want to understand what is the process of yearbook approval, review process, and where did it fail, and yes, it absolutely should be addressed."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.