Racist, derogatory comments in an online high school yearbook have prompted an investigation from Saanich police and the Greater Victoria School District.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students at Mount Douglas Secondary were given the opportunity to have their yearbook signed by peers online through the Jostens website. Students were able to sign up for virtual yearbook pages and received a link to send to friends so they could sign them. A message from the yearbook committee that was posted on June 3 on the school’s website advised students to not share their link publicly and only send it to friends.
On June 7, Saanich police received a report that hate messages had been posted on a virtual yearbook through Mount Douglas Secondary, according to Saanich Police Const. Markus Anastasiades.
“While the messages were disturbing, there were no direct threats made to any specific person and they were sent by an anonymous person,” Anastasiades said.
Police have been in communication with the school district and the digital yearbook has since been closed.
The messages included anti-Semitic comments, an image of a swastika, derogatory comments about the Black and Chinese communities and comments about sexual violence and rape.
Greater Victoria School Board chair Jordan Watters said the district will launch a full investigation into the incident.
“There’s absolutely zero tolerance and it’s just super upsetting for everybody,” Watters said. “This has just been a challenging year all around and this was an effort to create something special and celebratory and capture end of year traditions that were cancelled due to COVID-19.”
Watters said a link to the yearbook pages were posted publicly by a student and that the school district will be looking at use of third party platforms moving forward.
Students who have been affected by the messages are also being offered support by way of school-based teams and counselling.
“Given what’s going on in the world, this is a reminder that [racism] is close to home as well and we all share a responsibility to counter it, especially in the education system,” Watters said. “It’s a learning opportunity.”