Illinois high school spends over $50K on new yearbooks after students make white supremacist hand symbol in photos

An Illinois high school was forced to spend thousands of dollars to reprint the school's annual yearbook after it was discovered that several students photographed within had made hand gestures that have been used by prominent white nationalists.

In a statement to parents first reported by the Chicago Tribune, school officials at Oak Park and River Forest High School wrote it was unclear whether the students intended the hand gestures ― which appeared to be the "OK" symbol popularized to identify white nationalists by websites such as 4chan ― were meant with racist intent or were instead part of the popular "circle game," which pranks unsuspecting people into looking below the waist of the gesturing person.

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"We’ve been made aware that this year’s ‘Tabula’ yearbook, which has not yet been distributed, contains several photos of students making a hand gesture that has different meanings. In some cases it’s used in what is known as the circle game," reads the statement obtained by the Tribune.

"However, the gesture has more recently become associated with white nationalism. Regardless of intent, the potential negative impact of this gesture has led us to decide that we cannot distribute the yearbook as is. We are looking at alternative options, and in the coming days we will share further details about distribution plans," the statement continued.

"In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and support as we work through this situation," school officials concluded.

The total cost for the reprint of the yearbook reportedly topped $53,000, according to the Tribune, which the school paid manufacturer Jostens to deliver a new version by mid-June.

“My understanding is [yearbook staff] followed protocol,” area superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams said, according to the Tribune. “Things in this country change so rapidly. I don’t want anyone to think we are accusing our students of anything. For us, it was the impact of what the publication could have on the student body.”