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

Reader Comments

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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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