School yearbooks are meant to be pleasant records of our school experiences and treasures to look back at fondly for years to come.
But for many Mississippi middle school students, their annual turned out to be the exact opposite. The Hancock Middle School 2020-2021 yearbook is just another reminder of the part of school most of us would rather forget.
The school’s yearbook does contain pictures of the 1,100 students, but it also contains prompts for students’ quotes that have outraged parents, students and alumni alike.
Some of the prompts were “Who would you not invite on a trip?” and “I would most like to spike a volleyball at _____”
Specific students were named in response to the prompts, for example, “Student name wouldn’t get to go anywhere with me because he’s boring and he walks funny.”
Parents have called out the middle school for turning the yearbook into a “burn book”, inviting students to mock, criticize and insult other students.
Screenshots of the yearbook’s pages were posted on social media and people are understandably upset. One of the posts had been shared more than 600 times by noon on Monday.
One person commented, “Embarrassed but not embarrassed to say this is why I dropped out, was tired of being bullied and nothing being done about it.”
The Hancock County School District released a statement Monday:
“We are aware of the unfortunate fact that the Hancock Middle School (HMS) 2020-2021 Yearbook contains sensitive and inappropriate comments from some of our students. The yearbook is student led, student published and has, in the past, been an award winning yearbook. The yearbook is, however, sponsor and administrator supervised; this yearbook should not have included the sensitive and inappropriate comments. Hancock Middle School has already taken measures to ensure that this never happens again.”
The district has not said what the specific measures will be, however. They also did not address why the yearbook faculty sponsors and administration allowed this to happen in the first place.
Another issue of concern is the section of the yearbook that asks students to confirm their political affiliations. An eighth-grader said she was a Democrat because, “I believe that everyone should have freedom no matter there [sic] race or sexuality.” Just below her, a seventh-grader said she was a Republican because, “You can’t be a Democrat and a Christian.”
The Hancock Middle School handbook, published on the district’s website, says the school recognizes “that the middle school experiences of these early adolescents will influence their entire lives. Harassment and bullying are not tolerated, and can include behavior that creates or is certain to create a hostile environment.”
The yearbook sponsor nor the principal were available for comment this morning.