Racist, violent posts on Saanich high school virtual yearbook being investigated

Racist, violent posts on Saanich high school virtual yearbook being investigated
WatchSchool district officials and Saanich police are investigating after disturbing and hateful messages appeared on a virtual yearbook. April Lawrence reports.

Warning: The video in this story contains racist language. Discretion is advised. 

Mount Douglas Secondary in Saanich is a lot quieter than it usually would be this time of year with most students learning virtually from home, but a recent online incident has got the attention of the school district and Saanich police.

With COVID-19 restrictions, this year students were offered the option of “virtual” yearbook signing pages. Students could sign up and send their friends a link to have them sign their yearbook online.

But over the weekend parents, teachers, and Saanich officials were alerted to some disturbing and hateful messages popping up on some students’ pages.

They included an image of a swastika with anti-Semitic writing, several racist posts including one using derogatory terms against people in the Black and Chinese communities, and a post promoting sexual violence and rape.

“Everyone is really upset. It’s not how anyone wanted to end the year,” said Greater Victoria School Board Chair Jordan Watters.

The yearbook pages are run by Jostens Canada. Instructions on how to sign up are on the Mount Doug homepage with a warning to not post your link publicly online. But it appears not everyone heeded that warning and as a result, the school and Saanich police are now investigating.

“We are all united against racism and bigotry and discrimination of any kind and we have zero tolerance for that,” said Watters.

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“It appears that whoever posted did so anonymously and it seems like links to the yearbook may have been shared publicly so we’ve alerted the police and they’re involved and we’re doing our own investigation,” she said.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes says he’s received several text messages from concerned parents.

“I was shocked actually, I was shocked,” he said.

Haynes says he’s hopeful the school district will find answers and he says even if it wasn’t a student, it’s a reminder that racism does exist everywhere.

“As mayor of Saanich, I can say yes there’s a concern that elements of racism and intolerance and hatred do exist in our community and it’s a case of there’s no place for it and we need to steadily work to make sure we’re addressing those concerns,” he said.

The online yearbook has since been shut down and School District 61 is reviewing its policies.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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