Julian and Brooks middle school officials recently decided to hold off on distributing middle-school yearbooks after they discovered photos of students making what appears to be the “OK” hand gesture that has been affiliated with the White Supremacy movement. 

The gesture is also identified with the “Circle Game,” a prank popular among school-age young people. 

Julian Principal Todd Fitzgerald and Brooks Principal April Capudor emailed families and students on May 29 to announce the decision to delay handing out the books. The building leaders said school officials talked with the students who were making the gestures and the students told them they were “using it to say that everything was all right or as part of the ‘Circle Game’ that has been around for a number of years.”  

The situation involving the middle school yearbooks happened roughly a week after officials at Oak Park and River Forest High School opted to spend more than $50,000 to have the high school’s yearbooks reprinted when they discovered students in photos appearing to flash the OK hand gesture. 

In their email statement, Fitzgerald and Capudor explained that “a version of the gesture was flashed by the suspect in the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand” in March and by a Chicago Cubs fan who displayed the gesture behind a black sportscaster’s head while the sportscaster was broadcasting in May. The fan was banned from Wrigley Field for life. 

“Given the situation at OPRF High School, we decided to conduct a follow-up review of our yearbooks (initial reviews were conducted in late April) to determine if the gesture was being displayed by our students in any of the photos,” they wrote.

“Unfortunately, we found images in both of our publications in which the gesture could clearly be seen,” the principals added. “While the issue was discovered by Julian before the yearbooks were handed out, the same cannot be said at Brooks.”

The Brooks yearbooks were “collected from students … shortly after they were disseminated,” Fitzgerald and Capudor explained. “Building administration is sorry about the lack of organization and coordination that led to their premature distribution.” 

Officials at Brooks and Julian, they said, are working with District 97 officials to explore ways of addressing the matter, but “whatever solution we implement will delay the distribution of the yearbooks.” 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a letter sent to families as only coming from Fitzgerald. The letter came from both principals. Wednesday Journal regrets the error. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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