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Message of Racial Hate Found Hidden In High School Yearbook

June 15, 1995

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) _ A series of random-looking letters tacked onto the end of yearbook photograph captions spelled out a message of racial hatred beneath the picture of five graduating seniors in this wealthy, mostly white community.

The five Greenwich High School students, all white males, were suspended after school officials questioned them about the message and found their denials unbelievable. The suspensions may prevent them from graduating next week.

Words and letters appearing below the pictures of the five students, when put together, contained the message ``kill all niggers.″

The yearbook was released Monday. The message was discovered after a student allegedly involved in getting it into the book bragged to friends, school superintendent John Whritner said.

``From there it spread like wildfire,″ he said. ``You’d have to be a very eagle-eye proofer to pick it up.″

Unless the students successfully appeal their suspensions, which range from eight to 10 days, they will be prevented from taking final exams and attending Tuesday’s graduation ceremony.

At the request of school officials, police were also investigating, ``because we are concerned about possible civil rights violations,″ Whritner said.

Seniors get to write their own captions, and it is common for them to include inside jokes, or messages, that only friends will understand, school officials said.

At the end of a caption under one student’s picture appeared the word ``kill.″ Under a second was the word ``ALL.″ The third, fourth and fifth captions end: ``ni,″ ``gg″ ``ERS.″ The pictures are on various pages of the yearbook.

The five students said the disputed words or letters each stood for something specific, such as the initials of a club to which they belonged, said the school’s headmistress, Eileen Petruzillo. They denied it was intended to be a racist message, she said, adding, ``We do not believe their response.″

Blacks make up about 3 percent of the student population in Greenwich, a bedroom community of New York that is home to many celebrities and wealthy business executives. About 2,000 students attend the high school.

Whritner said racism has not been a problem at the school, and that he was upset that the act would tarnish the reputation of the graduating class.

``Of all senior classes this one has done the most towards enhancing relations between the races,″ Whritner said. ``They even had a diversity week this year.″

He said a letter would go out to all parents, and the faculty planned to take out a full-page newspaper advertisement condemning the act.

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