If you happened to be flipping through this year’s Monta Vista High School yearbook, you may have come across an unusual sight: a team photo caption identifying a student with a last name ending in “Jew.” But it’s no quirky family name—the last three letters of the Israeli student’s name were purposely tweaked by a classmate, and the crassly edited version made it all the way through the yearbook’s editing and printing process, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
The insult passed unnoticed by the yearbook adviser — and was published in all 1,600 copies — because the boy did not use an obvious racial slur. Instead, he has admitted to school officials that he intentionally changed the last three letters of his classmate’s name to “jew” while labeling a team photo.
Discovered during the last week of classes, the subtle taunt has created heartache for the victim’s family, who fled Eastern Europe after barely surviving the Holocaust. It’s also created a predicament for the school, which prides itself on its diversity and is struggling with few options to fix the problem since the yearbooks have already gone out.
The school district expressed outrage at the incident, and brought in the police to investigate. But prosecutors, who called the incident “extremely disturbing,” aren’t likely to file hate crime charges, since there was no explicit threat, violence, or vandalism involved.
What’s perhaps most surprising about the anti-Semitic incident is that the Cupertino high school student body is extremely diverse. According to the Mercury News, “Of Monta Vista’s 2,351 students, only 16 percent are white. More than three-quarters are Asian, including Indian and Pakistani; almost 3 percent are two or more races; nearly 3 percent are Latino, and less than 1 percent are black.”
The yearbooks, which sell for $90 apiece, cost the school $64,000 to print, which means a reprint is unlikely. Neither of the students involved have been identified, and the Israeli student’s mother asked the school to keep from publicizing which page features the misspelled photo caption.
High school remains a cruel, cruel place.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.