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Investigation into racist yearbook entry uncovers 9 more incidents

Last Updated Oct 17, 2020 at 11:58 am EDT

Durham regional police say their probe into a racist yearbook entry at a Pickering high school has uncovered more instances where entries were altered.

In a release Friday, police said nine more students at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School have come forward, saying their profiles were tampered with.

Police began an investigation after a Black student’s tribute to his deceased grandmother was changed to a racist comment.

Joshua Telemaque originally submitted a touching tribute to his beloved grandmother, writing: “RIP Grandma. Thank you for guiding me through my four years of high school.”

But someone changed his entry and when the yearbook was printed and circulated, his caption read: “RIP Harambe Dooga booga.O.”

Harambe was a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo that was shot and killed after a child climbed into the enclosure and was grabbed by the animal.

Police say of the nine additional entries that were altered, one had racist overtones. The others included comments ridiculing students about body image, and grades.

“These nine students were a mixture of female and male, from various cultural backgrounds,” police said in a release.

When Telemaque’s story became public, he received an outpouring of support, and the school and school board issued apologies.

In a letter posted online, the principal at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School apologized for the “offensive, hurtful” comments.

“We are horrified to discover that inappropriate comments were unknowingly published in the 2019-2020 edition,” Susan Duane wrote in the letter. “These comments were malicious, hurtful and racist in nature.”

The Durham Catholic District School Board posted a statement on its website, condemning the “racist comments” and apologizing.

“In a time where we are taking intentional steps to address systemic discrimination and anti-Black racism, we would like to extend a direct apology to the Black community that we serve,” the board said.