BIGELOW, Ark. – Yearbooks are meant to represent the highs and lows of a school year. But for those in Bigelow schools, students receiving a copy of this year’s book found two pages missing; torn out by members of the school district.
Many parents voiced their frustration over the removal on social media, calling it censorship by the school.
The two pages that had been torn out depicted a timeline of events from this past school year, ’20-’21.
Students as part of the yearbook class compiled the events and designed the spread themselves.
Madison Johnston took the class her final semester at Bigelow High School this past spring. She helped with the timeline and worked on a series of pages for the school’s sports teams.
“I would always look forward to that class just because it was so fun,” Johnston remembered.
But when students began to pick up their yearbooks, they noticed that pages appeared to be missing. “You could just see a little line where somebody had physically torn out the pages,” Johnston explained.
The timeline included on those pages depicted major events such as the 2020 election, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnston says the timeline took the longest amount of time to work on out of everything in the yearbook.
A few copies escaped with pages intact, those picked up on the first day of yearbook sales. The rest were damaged after some community members believed the timeline was too political and shouldn’t have been included in the book. The backlash is what led to the decision to pull the pages altogether.
“A group of parents had complained about it being biased,” Johnston explained. She says she didn’t know the pages had been torn out until a few days later, when a friend mentioned it to her.
She adds the events included had been triple-checked before being published. and everyone had OK’d the spread before it was printed. Johnston believes a removal is a form of censorship, saying, “they’re censoring something that is facts.”
The removal of the pages also damaged the binding on many student’s yearbooks, a $65 dollar item that had to be paid for in advance. Johnston says she would like to see students and parents refunded for the books, or have the yearbooks reprinted with every page included.
The East End School District superintendent had been contacted for comment but has yet to respond.