WARREN, NJ -
On the eve of the Watchung Hills Class of 2020 virtual graduation and drive through, a Facebook post was widely circulated regarding the omission of a student from this year's Watchung Hills yearbook. WHRHS Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Jewett addressed the WHRHS Learning Community a few hours later and provided some more information on Friday.
"The District learned today that one or more of our students was left out of our high school yearbook. This is troubling and, certainly, was not intentional. The District would never exclude any student from any aspect of Watchung Hills due to a disability, race/ethnicity, or for any other reason," Jewett said Thursday. "The social media post alleging that the student at issue and special needs students, in general, were excluded from the yearbook is simply incorrect. As a District, we actively seek to foster a culture that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion. We deeply regret that the student mentioned in the post was not pictured in our yearbook, and we apologize to her and her family for this omission. We are investigating what occurred and are currently looking to see if any other unintentional omissions were made. We will do our best to rectify the situation. Lastly, we intend to carefully review our processes to avoid any erroneous omissions in the future."
On Friday Jewett said,, "All of our students who receive special education support services from our district (approximately 16% of our total student body of approximately 1900 students) are part of our student learning community in the same manner as our students who do not receive special education support services.".
"With regard to the yearbook, the individual portraits of our students, whether they receive special education support services or not, appear in their respective class section - 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grade (given that they sat for a yearbook photo which not all students do). Some of our students who receive special education support services are entitled to services through the age of 21 and participate in our transition program once they complete their 12th grade year, said Jewett. "While these students may appear throughout the yearbook in club and candid photos, they do not appear in the 9th-12th grade section of individual student portraits. Please also keep in mind that as per student privacy laws, we are not permitted to publicly identify students as receiving special education services, in our yearbook or elsewhere.This is why we have not included a section with portraits of our transition program students up to this point. However, we are revisiting this and are considering doing so in the future for parents of students who would like this option and will grant permission for us to do so."