Glenbrook South yearbook investigation begins as tensions rise in community

Glenbrook Township High School District 225 officials said Tuesday they are continuing to investigate how a Glenbrook South student yearbook quote expressing support for the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel came to be published.

During an at-times raucous school board meeting Tuesday night, school board Vice President Peter Glowacki said the board directed district administrators to complete a report and issue recommendations in the coming weeks.

At issue is a current event piece published in the Etruscan yearbook titled “Oct. 7 War in Gaza,” which included the statement of a student who expressed happiness with the Hamas attack.

“These statements are hurtful to our students, staff and community, and will not be condoned or tolerated,” Glowacki said. “The board, administration and staff condemn antisemitism, hate speech and violence of any kind.”

Glowacki said the principal, assistant principal and staff weren’t aware of the content until after the yearbook was distributed.

Members of the Jewish and Muslim communities, supporters of student press rights, students, parents and alumni spoke out at the board meeting in the school auditorium, where dozens of speakers came to the podium for public comment that lasted nearly 2½ hours.

Board members recessed the meeting at one point, as tempers flared when a man carrying a Palestinian flag was speaking and his microphone was cut. When the board returned to the auditorium stage about 10 minutes later, Glowacki said the meeting was not a political forum, and comments should be directed to the board about the yearbook controversy and school business.

Among the speakers Tuesday, Rabbi Aaron Braun of the Northbrook Community Synagogue said the school principal and yearbook adviser “failed” for allowing publication of the quote, which “celebrated the murder of civilians in the only Jewish state.”

“Clearly censorship in this matter was warranted,” said Braun, who is the parent of an incoming freshman.

Members of the school’s Muslim Student Association said comments on social media have included death threats toward the student.

“The student who wrote the quote did so from a place of personal conviction and cultural identity,” said Ishmael Khandokar, a graduating senior. “For many Palestinians and their supporters, expressing solidarity with Palestine is not just a political statement, but a plea for recognition, justice and basic human rights.”

Before the meeting, two national journalism organizations expressed their support for the student yearbook staff and their adviser. In a letter to the school board president, the Student Press Law Center and the Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee said the Illinois Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act protects the yearbook staff’s editorial decisions except in narrowly defined circumstances.

The yearbook controversy in the Glenview/Northbrook-based high school district follows a similar episode at Bartlett High School, where a yearbook photo included a group of students holding a Palestinian flag and two signs, one of which read “from the river to the sea.” The school’s interim principal said the text was “considered antisemitic” and temporarily halted yearbook distribution.

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