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Student listed as ‘BLACK GUY’ in high school yearbook’s photo caption

NASHVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A list of names appears below an athletic team photo on Page 31 of Brown County High School’s 2020 yearbook.

At first glance, nothing seems askew. The coach and student-athlete names are typed out in sentence case and separated with commas.

But an all-caps label in the seventh line is difficult to miss if you give the caption more than a cursory glance. It’s not a name. It says “BLACK GUY.”

The student seated in the second row between Blake and Seth is listed as “BLACK GUY” in his high school yearbook.

“This is a clear violation of our nondiscrimination policy,” Dr. Laura Hammack, superintendent of Brown County Schools, said Monday night in a Facebook Live video.

She apologized in a letter to school families and said the district would consider disciplinary action after completing a thorough investigation.

Administrators could not explain who typed the caption and who approved Page 31 of the high school yearbook for publication.

Hammack declined News 8’s interview request and did not respond to questions about the yearbook staff’s review process.

The superintendent described the incident as “egregious” and “truly incomprehensible” in her video but repeatedly characterized it as an “error” rather than an act of racism.

Charlee Ison, a Brown County resident who has three children enrolled in district schools, said, “That was not an error at all and somebody needs to be held accountable for their actions.”

“We have biracial family members. It is very hurtful,” Ison said.

She recommended termination of yearbook staff members involved in the incident. Apologies alone are insufficient, she said.

Erika Bryenton, another Brown County parent, also denounced the caption as inexcusable but said “punishment isn’t the answer.”

“I know the editor of the yearbook and I know for a fact they would never allow something like that to happen on purpose,” Bryenton told News 8. 

The student mislabeled in the yearbook has not spoken publicly about it. School administrators are working with the student’s family to address the situation, the superintendent said.

“We are committed to ensuring that Brown County Schools provide a welcoming, safe, inclusive and equitable school community,” she wrote in her letter to parents.