GREENVILLE, S.C. – Students at Wade Hampton High School raged Tuesday after receiving text messages banning seniors from using religious or political quotes in the yearbook.
Senior Kate Geib told WYFF she submitted Psalm 18:2 for her yearbook quote, but was told via text message from the school’s yearbook staff on Tuesday that she’d have to change it.
“’The Lord is my rock’ – and that’s something that’s rang true throughout my life,” she said, adding that she didn’t think the line was offensive.
Regardless, that’s how it was interpreted by the yearbook staff, she said.
Geib received a text that read: “I’m really sorry, but the Wade Hampton administration decided that senior quotes cannot reference religion, politics or other similar controversial matters.”
Senior Taylor Davenport said he received a similar message for submitting lyrics to a country song that referenced God, and he approached administrators about the situation.
“So they decided to remove all potentially offensive topics,” he told the news site Wednesday. “That was the statement that I received yesterday.”
Students and parents took to social media to express their outrage over the ban, which prompted school officials to “clarify” the incident as a “misunderstanding,” Greenville County School spokeswoman Beth Brotherton told WBTW.
“Unfortunately a text message went out to a large group of people that made it sound more like a ban or an administration policy. When, in fact, we just want to make sure we’re taking a close look at all of the quotes that are going to be in the yearbook to make sure that nobody feels harassed, that nobody feels bullied and nobody feels uncomfortable by anything that’s said,” Brotherton said.
“I want to make it very clear that none of these quotes that were pulled or questioned – the 8 to 10 – are bible verses. All bible verses have been allowed in the past and will be allowed again this year,” she said. “We are in no way trying to step on our students freedom of speech, freedom of religion…we want them….this is the forum for them to be able to express themselves.”
Wade Hampton principal Eric Williams also issued a message to students and parents.
“Seniors, I apologize for the miscommunication regarding yearbook quotes. Some of you have been understandably upset at the idea of the administration instituting a ban that would inhibit your first amendment rights. This was not my intention. Please be assured that senior quotes will be printed as submitted, unless they reflect bullying, appear to promote drugs or alcohol, or in some other way violate the Behavior Code or other school rules,” he wrote in a statement.
“I do not believe the few quotes of this nature that were received by the yearbook staff represent the Attributes of a General that we all work hard to portray to our fellow students and community. We will speak individually with those seniors who submitted questionable quotes, asking for clarifications and revisions. Unless Mrs. Grieve or I speak with you directly, your quote will be printed in the yearbook as it was written. If you have any questions or concerns, please come see me.”