Highland High apologizes for publishing anti-trans yearbook quote

The Salt Lake City School District condemned and apologized for an anti-transgender quote from a graduating student published in this year’s edition of the Highland High School yearbook.

The quote, from senior Daniel Totzke, reads: “There are only two genders and a lot of mental illness.”

“This is a clear attack towards the trans community at Highland. As a member of the LQBTQ+, this was extremely offensive to me and many of the students at my school,” a student posted on Facebook (now removed) along with a photo of the student and yearbook quote.

“As a member of the LQBTQ+, this was extremely offensive to me and many of the students at my school,” the post continues. “I demand action to be taken against the student and the administrator that made it so hate speech could go into our 2020 yearbook.”

It is unclear exactly how the controversial quote managed to make its way into the final yearbook without being caught by student editors, faculty yearbook advisors, and other administrators.

“Unfortunately, one of the senior quotes in the yearbook included hate speech,” a statement from the school board reads. “Even more unfortunately, this quote was published in spite of the editing protocol in place for the yearbook.”

Interim Superintendent Larry Madden sent out his own statement, calling the quote “unacceptable.”

“This yearbook quote is absolutely unacceptable and in no way reflective of the Salt Lake City School District, the value we place on every student, and the standards we strive to uphold. Let me make it clear that the Salt Lake City School District condemns hate speech in any form. I would also like to issue an apology to any students or community members who have suffered or felt attacked because of this detestable statement. To have something like this included in one of our high school yearbooks is abhorrent. We are committed to providing a safe and equitable learning environment for all students, including our LGBTQIA+ community. To our LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized students I say, please know how deeply your teachers, school administrators, and district leaders care about you and your well-being. This quote was offensive and inappropriate. The district will be conducting a thorough investigation into how this was allowed to happen, and I will be working closely with the new principal at Highland High School to make sure we review the yearbook editing process so that nothing like this ever happens again.”

Salt Lake County School District Interim Superintendent Larry Madden

Newly-named Highland High School Principal Jeremy Chatterton called the quote an “attack.”

“I want to echo Superintendent Madden’s apology and affirmation that this statement is in no way reflective of our beliefs or practices at Highland High School or in the Salt Lake City School District. The inclusion of this quote in the yearbook is more than just an administrative oversight; it is an affront, an attack on our Highland community and our LGBTQIA+ community in particular. As principal, I will not allow hate speech like this in my school community. While the student in question has graduated, I want to reassure community members that I will take the steps necessary to make sure something like this is never allowed to happen again. I know many in our community have been deeply hurt by this quote. We care about the mental well-being of our students and will make counselors available to any students who have been impacted by this statement and wish to speak to someone. Please email me at [email protected] to set up an appointment with a counselor.”

Highland High School Principal Jeremy Chatterton

An investigation is ongoing into how the quote managed to evade scrutiny. The district will also be working with Chatterton to review the editing process to ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen in the future. 

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