PASADENA–Following weeks of negotiations between Pasadena Unified School District and Pasadena Armenian People’s Advisory Committee concerning an incident of intolerance and discrimination against Armenian students attending Marshall High School.
PAPAC–a grouping Armenian-American organizations in Pasadena–voiced concern about the Marshall High School 1998-1999 yearbook–in which a page of photos entitled "Armenian Senior" was tampered with by obscuring the male students’ hands–an implication that the students featured on the page were gang members of were enacting gang-related signs.
The Pasadena Police Department’s Gang Unit and the Chief of Police reviewed the original photographs at PAPAC’s request and found no gang signs or indications.
In response to the Pasadena Armenian community’s outrage–both Susan Ballantyne–principal of Marshall High School and Dr. Vera Vignes–Superintendent of PUSD addressed the following letter to the Armenian community:
We are regretful and apologetic for the wrong and the insult to the Armenian students–parents and the community–which has occurred as a result of the tampering with the photographs of the Armenian students in the John Marshall Fundamental School’s 1998-99 yearbook. The yearbook that was published and distributed in June 1999–which had several pages of Armenian student photos that were tampered with by whiting out the hands of the male students. Unfortunately this implies that those students on the page were gang members–or making gang signs.
Since August 1999 we have been working closely with the Pasadena Armenian People’s Advisory Committee to rectify the situation and to develop a stronger relationship with the Armenian community. We are in the process of implementing the following steps in an effort to remedy the situation and build stronger ties with the Armenian community:
1. Recall and reprint all the yearbook pages with the original unedited photographs.
2. Apology letters were sent to all the students in the photos whose hands were "whited-out" in the yearbook.
3. The District staff is working closely with the Armenian community to involve and educate the students and staff of our school about the Armenian history and culture. This will be accomplished through special staff training and through implementing the State approval Genocide curriculum.
4. We are establishing Armenian language and history classes at John Marshall that will be offered during the second semester of the current year.
5. We are establishing periodical meetings with the representatives of PAPAC and the Assistant Superintendents for Schools to strengthen the ties between the individual school communities and the Armenian community.
Please accept our very deep apologies and our very sincere commitment and willingness to use this regrettable incident as an opportunity to build strong relations with the Armenian community.