PLEASANT HILL -- Evidence from a 3-year-old hate crime investigation found its way into Sequoia Middle School's newsletter last week, prompting a red-faced community apology from administrators.
The school's newsletter normally includes announcements, tidbits about current events and an occasional cartoon. Friday's edition carried a "Peanuts"-style cartoon depicting a black character with a noose around his neck and the words "white pride" scrawled overhead.
"We will be making procedural and security changes to prevent such travesties from happening again," Principal Connie Cirimeli wrote in a letter to the school community Sunday.
As reported in Sunday's "On Assignment" blog on this newspaper's website, a substitute school secretary assembling the newsletter on the regular secretary's computer embedded the image, apparently mistaking it for an innocuous cartoon.
But the file was actually a photograph, taken by school officials in 2008 after someone defaced a campus mural with racist graffiti. The school reported that incident to Pleasant Hill police, and the photo was among the evidence collected for the police investigation.
"Friday, a substitute secretary was working on the newsletter during a busy afternoon and embedded the image without examining it closely enough to recognize its content," Cirimeli wrote. "It is office protocol that any public distribution of information be proofread by a second employee and given to the office manager for final approval before publishing."
The substitute did not follow the process Friday and sent out the newsletter without the knowledge of any staff member, Cirimeli wrote, adding that "appropriate personnel action" would be taken.
To prevent future problems, the school will now store digital crime evidence on secured computers only available to administrators, and substitute staff members will no longer have access to the schoolwide emailing system.
All publications must also be approved by administrators.
"This is not what our school is about," said parent Karen Booth, president of the parent-faculty club.
Contact Karl Fischer at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/kfischer510.