OPRF postpones distributing yearbooks due to 'OK' sign pics

The yearbook included photos of students making the controversial 'circle game' hand gesture

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Officials at Oak Park and River Forest High School recently announced that they plan on postponing the distribution of the school's "Tabula" yearbook, after they realized that it contained photos of students making a hand gesture that has become identified with the white nationalist movement.

In an email sent to parents, Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams explained that the yearbook contained "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."

The gesture entails people forming their hands to make the OK sign. In the circle game, the point is to form the gesture with your hands below your waist, baiting people to look. But what before was a game or an innocent hand communication has in the last few years morphed into a symbol of the far right.

The controversy over the OK sign started in 2017, when the gesture started circulating on 4Chan, an internet message board.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Montgomery, Ala.-based organization that tracks hate groups and trends, described the sign on its website:

"The social-media-driven controversy over the meaning of the well-known hand sign has arisen in part as the result of a deliberate hoax concocted on the internet message board 4chan, which in addition to its well-earned reputation as a gateway to the racist 'alt-right' is perhaps more broadly known as the home of trolling culture.

"So when it gets flashed during a national broadcast, or during a video being shot to promote the Coast Guard, or by a cluster of Proud Boys and 'Patriots,' what it's about most of the time is a deliberate attempt to 'trigger liberals' into overreacting to a gesture so widely used that virtually anyone has plausible deniability built into their use of it in the first place."

In her email, Supt. Pruitt-Adams wrote that "regardless of intent, the potential negative impact of this gesture has led us to decide that we cannot distribute the yearbook as is."

The superintendent said that the district is exploring "alternative options

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: May 29th, 2019 9:15 PM

Just backround here. I read a story recently about this issue and how how Ernest Hemingway and his four buddies posed for a photo for the 1917 in front of OPRF High School year book with shotguns.l. They posed as the Shotgun Club, got the photo in the yearbook. There was no shotgun club at the high school.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: May 29th, 2019 6:35 PM

@Jim, Schools are following OPRF's lead, and all the national attention it's gotten.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: May 29th, 2019 4:55 PM

OPRF not alone https://chicago.suntimes.com/2019/5/29/18644756/white-nationalist-payton-college-prep-yearbooks-ok-sign-circle-game

Terri Reniva  

Posted: May 22nd, 2019 9:46 AM

I agree with Tom Leeds.

George Irving Thompson from Oak Park  

Posted: May 22nd, 2019 8:52 AM

I had never heard or known about this hand gesture and I imagine very few people knew about it until this was publicized by the school. The last thing I want to know about are hand gestures used by white nationalists or any gang anywhere. What the school has done is given white nationalist free national publicity. This again is another childish reaction by adults when adult behavior and reactions would be more appropriate (at significant costs to taxpayers financially and to all of us emotionally) . What ever happened to the old sage "sticks and stones can break my bones but words (or hand gestures) can never hurt me". Hand gestures can only hurt us if we don't ignore them. It is time to refuse to give any relevance to anything people who generate hate and offensive policies do or say. The school is defeating its own policies and goals by overreacting. Don't give power to people who want to do you harm!

Rob Ruffulo  

Posted: May 21st, 2019 4:26 PM

I agree with Tom Leeds. Another joke of a decision by OPRF. Give the kids their yearbooks and move on. Stop creating headlines for your school.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: May 21st, 2019 9:25 AM

So now Oak Park/River Forest is making decisions based upon the opinions of the Southern Poverty Law Center? This extreme radical Left Wing Progressive bunch of nuts have been called terrorists and a extremist Hate group, their tax exempt status is being challenged and will likely be revoked. It takes a sick mind to believe that our kids have any relationship to white supremacist ideology. They may do dumb things now and then but this is way over the top. If this hand signal is so extreme why didn't someone see it when proofs were approved? The inmates are running the asylum!

Gregg Kuenster from River Forest  

Posted: May 21st, 2019 7:41 AM

According to the Urban Dictionary this has nothing to do with race nor any discrimination, It is a visual trick game. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=The%20Circle%20Game

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2019 3:14 AM

Eating the cost of a second run of these expensive books seems like a gesture to the taxpayers where the middle finger gets extended at us. Not getting spun up about this would be a better alternative option.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: May 19th, 2019 7:03 PM

How does the school authority ascertain this is racial gesture instead of being involved in the silly circle game? Does the school investigate the backrounds of the photographed students? What is the standard used by the school to make this decision?

Alex Garcia  

Posted: May 19th, 2019 9:56 AM

How many allegedly offending photos/gestures are at issue here? If it's a small number, can a sticker or some other obfuscation simply be applied to the photos? Otherwise, I agree with Tom below. It sounds like a few kids were trying to provoke a reaction (or overreaction, depending on how you view this) and they unfortunately succeeded.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: May 19th, 2019 6:16 AM

The school has to do something as it can't now just be ignored regardless of intent. The thing I don't get is why they can't just put stickers over it or even better simply sharpie over it and move on. I recognize this will be work on a large number of yearbooks but it's manageable and then the problem is solved with no reprinting costs. We are hearing a reprint will mean no yearbooks until July which is sad for seniors who want to have everyone sign them. Why make all those students suffer for this?

Tom Leeds  

Posted: May 18th, 2019 9:38 PM

Seems like the deliberate attempt to 'trigger liberals' into overreacting has worked.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: May 18th, 2019 4:42 PM

cutting out the images would also remove (and ruin) whatever is on the other side of the page - as would removing the entire page - an unfortunate additional consequence.

Barbara J Plona  

Posted: May 18th, 2019 4:34 PM

Can a razor blade used to cut out the pages containing the offensive hand gestures?

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