A yearbook titled “Our Story” got an F in conveying the story of a Muslim student at Los Osos High School. Instead, it mislabeled her photo and gave her a new name: Isis.
Bayan Zehlif, a junior at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, posted a photo of the yearbook page on Twitter Friday evening. “I guess I’m Isis in the yearbook…” she wrote.
Beneath her smiling face on the page, there was a simple caption: “Isis Phillips, 11th.”
“I am extremely saddened, disgusted, hurt and embarrassed that the Los Osos High School yearbook was able to get away with this,” Zehlif elaborated on Facebook. “The school reached out to me and had the audacity to say that this was a typo. I beg to differ, let’s be real.”
School principal Susan Petrocelli said a student named Isis Phillips used to attend the school, but no longer does, the Islamic Monthly reported. “If there is a student that has responsibly and intentionally committed this, we will take the appropriate action that is necessary,” she said.
The yearbook staff for Los Osos’s “Our Story” apologized on Twitter, calling the incident a mistake.
“We are extremely sorry for what occurred in the Yearbook. it is our duty to represent the students of Los Osos High School and by mis-tagging and giving the incorrect name, we failed to do so,” they said. “It is our fault and this is absolutely inexcusable on our part. We are currently working in coordination with the school and district office to remedy this situation.
“We should have checked each name carefully in the book and we had no intention to create this misunderstanding,” they added, presumably referring to the false association of the hijab-clad student with the world’s most loathed terrorist group.
Yearbook adviser Lori Rannis did not return a request for comment.
Zehlif and her family were scheduled to meet with Petrocelli on Sunday morning, according to the Islamic Monthly, and yearbooks that haven’t yet been distributed are being held by the school. (Petrocelli and Zehlif did not return requests for comment.)
Los Osos is a diverse high school in Rancho Cucamonga, a suburban hamlet not far from San Bernardino. About 40 percent of the students are white, with Hispanics and African Americans making up the second and third largest groups. Student club offerings include a Muslim Students Association.
Despite this, many of Zehlif’s defenders are questioning how, if the misnaming was a mistake, it just happened to affect a Muslim student in a hijab.
“We know who the real Isis is now,” one woman tweeted at her, sharing a screenshot of an image where an iPhone is trying to autocorrect the name of the school to Isis.
Katarina Barbour tweeted a photo of the yearbook with the name Isis Phillips blacked out with a marker. Underneath it, in larger letters, was written “Bayan.”
“If everyone could do this that would be lovely,” she wrote.
A statement put out Sunday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Zehlif suffered “a great deal of emotional and psychological distress” from the incident, and wouldn’t return to school until it was resolved.
But other students at the school were quick to excuse the misnaming.
“HUMAN. FREAKING. ERROR.,” tweeted Noah Sandoval, who identifies himself as a “future neurosurgeon” on Twitter.
Unfortunately, high-school yearbooks are no strangers to racist imagery. One high school yearbook had a spread where students dressed in ponchos and mustaches while another student sported a “Border Patrol” sign just last May. Students at an Arizona high school made national news after they spelled out a racial slur with T-shirts made for a yearbook photo spread, even though the image itself didn’t land in the yearbook.
And last week, a student from another Arizona school was slapped with 70 charges, including a felony, for the non-racially motivated but knuckle-headed prank of exposing his genitals in a yearbook photo. Charges against him have since been dropped.
Meanwhile, just a 20-minute drive away from Los Osos High School, in Fontana, California, a Muslim student was crowned prom queen last month after her friends wore hijabs to campaign for her. In her beaded dress, Zarifeh Shalabi told The New York Times she felt “like a butterfly.”
“I feel like we have something to teach the rest of the country,” her friend Sarahi Sanchez said.