Metro Weekly

Salt Lake City high school publishes anti-transgender quote in yearbook

Salt Lake City superintendent calls quote "abhorrent" and "absolutely unacceptable"

Highland High School’s 2020 drive-through graduation ceremony – Photo: Facebook

The Salt Lake City School District is apologizing and condemning an anti-transgender quote from a graduating student that has sparked controversy after it was published in this year’s edition of the Highland High School yearbook.

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

It was published underneath his photo in the space generally reserved for inspirational or heartfelt messages from graduating seniors. The person who first called attention to the quote was another student, who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community.

“I’m not usually one to post,” the student wrote in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 7,500 times. “But I can’t help but post about this. I am a student at Highland High School going into my senior year. Due to the coronavirus our school did not receive its yearbook until today. Shockingly, one of the senior quotes was not as funny as the rest…. ‘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 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. The quotes were submitted before COVID started and the yearbook came out late. There is no excuse for this. Please help me make this public so [the student] can face the consequences of his actions.”

I’m not usually one to post. But I can’t help but post about this. I am a student at highland high school going into my…

Posted by Naomi Hill on Friday, 31 July 2020

It is unclear exactly how the controversial quote managed to make its way into the final yearbook without vetting from student editors, faculty yearbook advisors, or other administrators.

The district confirmed that the quote was genuine and had been published in the yearbook in a statement to the Deseret News.

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

“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,” Interim Superintendent Larry Madden said in his own statement. “Let me make it clear that the Salt Lake City School District condemns hate speech in any form.

See also: Gay Missouri high schoolers’ pro-gay yearbook quotes yanked by school officials

“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,” Madden added.

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

“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,” Jeremy Chatterton, who started as the new principal in July, said in a statement.

“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.”

Read more:

Kellyanne Conway’s daughter: Trump is a racist, homophobic, tyrannical, golfing idiot”

Massachusetts man charged with assaulting gay man for flying a Pride flag outside his home

Lifetime is developing its first-ever Christmas movie with LGBTQ lead characters

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!