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Publisher responds to Brainerd yearbook uproar

The company that published the Brainerd High School yearbook said it's working with the school district on its response to a controversial page containing a threatening anti-Trump statement.

One page of the yearbook asks students for their feelings about President Donald Trump. One commenter, a sophomore, had harsh words for the president.

"I would like to behead him," the student said. "I do not like him."

Jeff Peterson, vice president of marketing for Jostens, said the company has no editorial oversight over the thousands of yearbooks it produces for high schools across the country each year. Peterson said Paul Sorensen, the sales representative working with the Brainerd School District, was sharing potential solutions with school district representatives Friday. Peterson described an incident like the one in Brainerd as rare.

"At the end of the day, Jostens, in rare cases that something like this gets through that editorial goalie, if you will, then we work with the school to see how they want to address it," Peterson said.

Peterson said Jostens can offer full-page stickers to cover up the offending page.

"When they're applied to the book, it looks like a full page," Peterson said.

Peterson said it's up to the school whether they choose to recall the yearbooks and apply the stickers, or whether they hand the stickers out to students to apply themselves.

Peterson said the handling of refunds would be up to the school district.

On Friday afternoon, the school district released the following statement on its website: "The administration of Brainerd Public Schools has been notified that the 2016-2017 high school yearbook contains highly disrespectful statements from students about political figures, including the president of the United States. The administration was previously unaware of the students' statements in the yearbook. The district does not support or otherwise endorse any disrespectful or politically based statements that are in the yearbook and apologizes for the statements that were included. While the district supports free speech, the disrespectful statements in the yearbook are contrary to the basic educational mission of the district and should not have been included in a school sponsored publication. The administration is currently investigating how this occurred and is reviewing the district's processes to ensure that this type of unacceptable situation does not occur in the future. The administration deeply regrets that the existing processes for reviewing the yearbook did not result in the removal of the inappropriate statements."

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in professional journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Perkins interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins, and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before becoming the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as the county government beat reporter at the Dispatch and a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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