Michael Thomas was anxious to get his copy of the Lindsay Place High School yearbook after spending five years preparing for graduation.
Then, the 17-year-old’s social media pages started to light up with alerts, as a video after video appeared streaming from a sticker torn from a photo to reveal his face, identified as “Most likely to become a wanted criminal”.
Thomas didn’t find anything funny on the label.
“They know me. It’s not like I’m a stranger. I’ve been there for five years. I’ve been there all the time. I participate in all sports and everything, ”said Thomas.
“I feel like they describe me like that is very disrespectful. “
Many people on the West Island of Montreal are shocked to learn of the controversial incident – the second in two weeks to be discovered in a school under the jurisdiction of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
Pearson’s board of directors adopted a motion only last Monday, promising to tackle the problem of systemic racism in its ranks.
Lindsay Place released a statement via Facebook Friday afternoon, signed by director Kerry-Ann Payette and assistant director Brigitte Valois, explaining the situation.
“We had to order a reprint of our directories. You may have been informed that we feel compelled to place a peel-off sticker on an inappropriate category that should never have been printed, “the administrators said in the release.
“The directory company assured us that the sticker could not be removed. “
The sticker has a printed message saying, “We apologize, a mistake was made that does not reflect the values of Lindsay Place High School. “
The school then learned that students could peel off the sticker. Videos posted on social media show that people can easily remove the sticker with their fingers, showing Thomas’ face and name.
He wears his cap and dress, holds his diploma and smiles widely.
“We would like to officially apologize to our graduate student and his family,” said the school administrators.
“We regret that it happened and we will take steps to ensure that it does not happen again. “
Payette told CBC in an email Friday that the 100 directories, distributed Thursday, were recalled. Staff will go to each residence to pick up the books, she said, and a revised version will be distributed in the fall.
Thomas is still shocked by the incident. He was not warned and had no idea it was going to happen.
He said that the students had gathered the book, but he was sure it was approved by a teacher or a school administrator. It is unclear how students are selected for the “most likely to” categories.
But anyway, he said, he doesn’t want anyone to think he’s a criminal, “because I’m not,” and he thinks race may have played a role in someone’s decision to place it in this category.
He said there weren’t many students of color in school and that it was not always easy.
“Racism is not just in America,” said Thomas.
” It’s everywhere. I have a lot – not just in school, but everywhere – but I have certainly had racist comments in school. “
“This is nothing new. “
He now fears that his name will be tarnished.
“It affects my future. It’s not what I needed. No one else has obtained this title. “