Amid the usual assortment of celebrity catchphrases and insipid inspirational quotes, one student opted to take a political stand.

“Build that wall!” with attribution to President Donald Trump, was published as a female student’s senior quote in the Richmond Early College High School yearbook.

But advocating for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border was too controversial for Richmond County Schools, which confiscated copies of the book this week. Spokeswoman Ashley-Michelle Thublin said several senior quotes raised eyebrows. With only six days of school remaining, officials said there isn’t enough time to reprint the yearbooks. Refunds will be issued and students will have no yearbook at all.

A statement posted to the school system’s Facebook page suggests that either Hispanic students were offended by the border wall quote or administrators chose to take umbrage on their behalf. Some community members called the comment racist.

“As a district, we do not and will not tolerate inappropriate conduct toward any of our students,” Richmond County Schools said.

If this isn’t political correctness run amok, we aren’t sure what is.

Most opposition to the wall, a signature plank of Trump’s platform, centers on the expense of building a concrete barrier stretching some 2,000 miles and predictions that the structure will be largely ineffective when it comes to border security.

Taken together with pledges to deport undocumented immigrants, the wall has developed a distasteful symbolism for many on the left. But no mainstream American politician is calling for open borders, and former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, famously built the existing border fence.

Sovereign nations have the right to control entry and require that immigrants are screened for criminal backgrounds and links to terror groups. The United States already does this, and it isn’t considered racist.

Whether or not the wall is sound public policy, a soon-to-be high school graduate should be able to make a passing reference to it without school officials resorting to hysterics, snatching yearbooks and issuing mea culpas to soothe delicate millennials’ hurt feelings.

A 1988 Supreme Court precedent gives K-12 schools the ability to censor yearbooks and student newspapers that have not been designated public forums, but simply because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.

Swapped for signatures on the final days of school and kept for permanent posterity, yearbooks can teach lessons that stick with alumni long after class notes and test answers have faded from memory.

Distributing the yearbooks would show Richmond Early College High School to be a place where free speech and individual rights are valued and where students of all political persuasions felt they could express themselves.

Returning them to the printer to be destroyed leaves a sad legacy of suppression, undermining the very mission of a school that seeks to give students a jump start on life in the real world.

This early college is looking an awful lot like a nursery for intellectual late-bloomers.


(c)2017 the Richmond County Daily Journal (Rockingham, N.C.)

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