HAMLET — The day after graduating, a now-former Richmond Early College High School student released a statement on Saturday on the debacle regarding her quote in the yearbook that catapulted the school into the national spotlight.
Miranda Taylor said, as a senior, she was looking forward to graduating along with the rest of her classmates and that the Richmond County School system “has been encouraging all of us for the past four years to develop our minds as young adults.”
“While taking an American History class, several of us became interested politics,” she said. “The elections this past year made us more aware as young adults that this is our world and we have a say so in it. It made us realize how privileged we are in this country to choose our leaders. It also made us realize that not everyone shares the same opinion.”
Taylor said in January, all seniors were given the opportunity to select a quote that was meaningful to them for the yearbook.
“Here is where I must show my disappointment with the Richmond Early College and the Richmond County School System,” she said. “At no time was it ever mentioned to me that my quote was not acceptable. The yearbooks were handed out on Monday, May 8 and were taken up that same day.”
The school system previously confirmed in a statement that “a handful” of the 2017 yearbooks — which had already been paid for — for the early college were recalled by Principal Tonya Waddell after “the school and district administration felt several of the quotes submitted by students were inappropriate.”
The district referred to the quotes as “a mistake … discovered by the principal” and said those that had been handed out were taken back the same morning and the rest were not distributed.
The only “inappropriate” quote that is known is “Build that wall,” attributed to President Donald Trump, which was used by Taylor. The only reason it is known is because a photo of her, along with the quote from the yearbook, was posted to Facebook.
“The public statement released by Richmond County Schools and the audio announcement by the principal of REaCH suggested that there were several inappropriate comments,” Taylor said in her statement. “The key word is ‘several,’ but my comment was only one pointed out.”
The school system has yet to give examples of other “inappropriate” quotes or mistakes or even say how many there were.
“Again, I am disappointed that the same system that encouraged me to find my voice is now telling me to shut up,” she continued. “Because of those statements, social media has now decided that I am prejudiced, racist, and have no right to freedom of speech. I have been (threatened) by hundreds of people that I don’t even know, just because I quoted our president.”
Because it was so close to the end of the year, Richmond County Schools said a decision was made to not have the yearbooks reprinted.
Taylor and the rest of her class graduated Friday night.
“While I am sorry that my classmates and I will not have a yearbook, I can honestly say that I am not sorry for defending my freedom of speech,” Taylor concluded in her statement. “I have always been taught that when I am given a choice, it is up to me to make that choice. I will choose God and my country every time.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.