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Sequoia MS principal explains offensive newsletter graphic

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, December 18th, 2011 at 3:14 pm in Education, Pleasant Hill.

On Friday, parents of Sequoia Middle School students received the school’s “TGIF” newsletter via email. The newsletter inadvertently included a very offensive graphic image that appeared to be an African-American character from the Peanuts comic strip with a noose around his neck.

Shortly after the newsletter was disseminated, parents received the following message from Principal Connie Cirimeli:

“Good evening. This is Connie Cirimeli, principal of Sequoia Middle School. I am reaching out to apologize to our school community for the inclusion of a graphic on our weekly TGIF newsletter that went out via email today. This graphic was attached in error and without my knowledge or consent. Please accept our sincere apology for any offense this has caused. I assure you that this graphic does not represent our school’s values. Thank you for your understanding.”

Cirimeli followed up with an explanation of what happened, in this message sent to parents about an hour ago:

“Dear Sequoia Community,

I hope that you all received my message on Friday regarding the graphic that was included in the TGIF newsletter.

Since sending out my apology, I have investigated further and was able to determine the source of the image as well as the series of errors which led to its distribution.

The image was taken back in 2008 when one of our school murals was vandalized. It was stored on a secretary’s computer and used as evidence during the police investigation of the crime. Friday, a substitute secretary was working on the newsletter during a busy afternoon and embedded the image without examining it closely enough to recognize its content. It is office protocol that any public distribution of information be proofread by a second employee and given to the Office Manager for final approval before publishing. Unfortunately, the substitute did not follow office protocol for proofing prior to publication and sent out the newsletter without any staff member’s knowledge. Appropriate personnel action will be taken for this infraction.

In response, we will be making procedural and security changes to prevent such travesties from happening again. Those changes will include the following:

1) Any digital evidence of a crime will be stored on a secured computer with administrator access only.

2) Substitute staff will not have access to SchoolMessenger, which will require all messages to be sent by an office staff member.

3) All publications will require the approval of an administrator prior to distribution.

I sincerely apologize for this grave error. I too am deeply disturbed and offended by this image.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Sincerely,
Connie Cirimeli”

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