Yearbook Nightmares: Students Remembered for Fat Joke, Racial Pranks

Embarrassing yearbook pranks, mistakes can ruin a teenager's high school years.

ByABC News
May 15, 2009, 1:40 PM

May 18, 2009— -- In the ethos of high school culture, a misstep or slight can send even the most well-adjusted teenager into the throes of angst.

Now imagine a high school yearbook labeling a teen as "fat-ass" or a "faggot" or simply "Black Girl."

It's a nightmare kids across the country live every spring as the tightly bound yearbooks are distributed. But alongside the faces of smiling kids, sports moments and catchphrases, several schools each year find mistakes and pranks that are severe enough to make headlines and traumatize students.

Marie Gray,a 15-year-old freshman from Tonopah, Ariz. spent part of last week home from school after opening her Tonopah Valley High School yearbook to find that a mural of signatures inlcuded the words "fat-ass" scrawled under her name.

Another freshman student's name had been defaced with the word "faggot."

Gray told ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix that she's been teased before about her weight, but this was especially cruel.

"I didn't think someone could be that mean, to write it in the yearbook, where everyone could see it," she told KNXV. "I like myself for who I am, but I'm not happy about my weight and it hurts to have everyone talking about it."

Superintendent Mark Joraanstad told that while an investigation into how the insult got into the book, the yearbook's faculty advisor --a social studies teacher -- has been placed on paid administrative leave.

And after school officials were able to figure out which student was responsible for the hurtful prank -- a fellow freshman -- he was dealt with harshly as well.

"Suffice it to say he's no longer a student at this high school," Joraanstad said. "He's chosen to withdraw from the school."

But that doesn't erase his words.

Joraanstad said the yearbook was built using the publisher's Web site that allows students and the advisor to make edits before sending the final copy for publishing. He said officials are going through each entry to find out who made the changes and why the advisor never caught such a "very obvious" mistake even after logging more than 12,000 edits.

Joraanstad said Marie returned to school Thursday and told him she'd been greeted with support and empathy from her fellow classmates.

"The kids in the [yearbook] class are devastated by it," he said, adding some of them who knew her well were in tears.