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Texas yearbook labels some special needs students 'mentally retarded'

Seniors at a Mesquite, Texas, high school will have to wait for a reprinted version of their yearbook, this after the initial publication labeled some special-needs students "mentally retarded." KXAS-TV's Andres Gutierrez reports.

A Dallas-area high school was forced to pull back its yearbooks after a section described some students with special needs as “mentally retarded.”

Officials at the Mesquite Independent School District have apologized to families and students of Mesquite High School, east of Dallas, for a section dedicated to students with disabilities that contained errors and offensive language, district spokeswoman Laura Jobe said.

“It was with the best of intentions and not meant to ridicule or disparage anyone in any way,” Jobe told msnbc.com on Tuesday. “We believe the students didn’t understand the term ‘retarded’ was not acceptable. It was just an error that was overlooked and got printed, unfortunately.”


Jobe said she did not read the two-page section, but did see a photocopy of one page, which was sent to her office. She said a section read: “some of the disabilities the students in the Special Education Program have are being blind, deaf or non-verbal.”

She added:  “Specific disabilities of students were also cited in the yearbook, with some labeled as both blind and deaf, as well as mentally retarded.”

Students on the yearbook staff, a team of mostly seniors and a teacher advisor, also did not have parental permission to publish the photos of the students with special needs, Jobe said.

A special education teacher noticed the errors on Friday after 100 copies of the publication had been distributed to the senior class at Mesquite, Jobe said. Mesquite High School has about 2,800 students.

The school collected all the yearbooks and sent them back to the publisher, Jobe said. She said the section will be taken out and the yearbooks glued back together. Students will get their copies by next week, she said.

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"The principal did call the parents on Friday evening -- the parents of the students who were in that section -- [and] explained to them what had happened," Jobe said. "They were extremely understanding."

High school seniors, such as Alexandra Doverspike and Iman Hijaz, said they believe it was an honest mistake.

"You know everybody wants to be included, not left out," Hijaz told NBCDFW.com. "I think it was nice to make the page."

"I feel like everybody makes mistakes, and it's fixable," Doverspike told NBCDFW.com.

The school district plans to include additional training for staff members who work with yearbook production.

Some parents, like Christie Rawson, whose son is graduating from Mesquite High School on Saturday, are still upset.

“This should have been flagged during proofreading,” Rawson told msnbc.com. “The school made a mistake, and the graduating class shouldn’t have to leave school on this note. People need to have a greater sense of understanding and respect for all people. I want to congratulate the Class of 2012 and for them to move ahead on a positive note.”

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