La Jolla High School officials on Thursday issued an apology for an editorial cartoon published in the school’s newspaper.
In an email to parents and students, Principal Chuck Podhorsky said that the decision to publish a cartoon, which has sparked controversy on campus in recent weeks, was “an error in judgment and a breach of all the values we hold dear.”
The cartoon in question was published in January by Hi-Tide, La Jolla High’s newspaper. According to Podhorsky, it depicted various ethnic groups with exaggerated features based on “ugly racial stereotypes.”
“La Jolla is a community that values the free speech of our students,” the email said. “However, with the right to free speech comes a responsibility. We have talked to those involved with the publication of this cartoon about this responsibility — and the need to take public ownership of their actions in this case.”
He did not identify whose error in judgment the cartoon represented, or who signed off on it before publication.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten and area superintendent Mitzi Merino also signed Podhorsky’s email.
The cartoon shows nine men, all wearing hooded sweatshirts with different sayings on the front. One man, who has a long beard and appears to be wearing a type of turban, has a sweatshirt that reads, “I’m the bomb.”
Another has a large nose, long sidecurls and is wearing a yarmulke. His shirt says, “Who Nose?”
Ephrata Abate, a senior at La Jolla High, said she appreciated Podhorsky’s message, but the cartoon should have been addressed by school officials sooner.
“I understand that free speech is necessary at school, but you can’t confuse free speech with hate speech,” Abate said. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
According to Abate, a representative from the school’s Black Student Union and MEChA, an organization that promotes unity and empowerment on campus, many students were offended by the cartoon. Students hung a sign in front of the school over copies of the cartoon that read, “Can this be addressed?”
In the email, Podhorsky spoke directly to all of the students who were hurt or offended by the cartoon.
“We want you to know that San Diego Unified and La Jolla High strive to be welcoming communities, and your well-being matters to all of us,” Podhorsky said, adding that the school is well-equipped to continue a conversation in a responsible way. “That conversation is starting now at La Jolla High School, and this situation reminds us all that we have more work to do to deliver the future all our children deserve.”