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School Yearbook Controversy Becomes Devilish : Journalism: Artwork, including the word <i> Satan,</i> and an alleged racial slur prompt protests as some demand their money back. ‘We were duped,’ faculty adviser says.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Talk about the yearbook from hell.

Readers of Santa Monica High School’s “Nautilus,” released last week, were jolted when they turned the cover upside down: The word Satan can be seen within the fanciful orange and black lettering of the yearbook name.

That’s not all. There are the mushrooms--references to drugs, some say--within the surreal drawing on the cover that the student artist said was a rendering of a scene from a Super Mario Bros. video graphic. There is the nude drawing of school mascot Vicky Viking--her left hand casually draped over her lap. And on the inside pages a printer’s error rendered the word “Homecoming” as “Homecomnig,” which some are calling a clipped form of a racial slur (the homecoming king and queen were African American).

Now parents are outraged and some students are demanding their $35 back.

“I was naive,” said yearbook adviser Carol Jago. “I didn’t turn the book upside down. I looked for weapons, beer cans, raised middle fingers--the things I’ve been looking for in yearbooks for the last 17 years.”

“We were duped,” she added, explaining that nothing seemed amiss when it was reviewed before the press run.

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Not so, say the student artists.

Jamie Enyart, 17, who drew much of the cover, said it was just a surreal commentary on the strange times we live in. The controversy, he added, is overblown.

“The cover, and a lot of the art in the yearbook, had nothing to do with drugs,” he said.

A lot of what the artists drew was intended as political statements, they said. “Like the guy on the cover with the tassel round his neck. Everybody got upset because they saw the pentagram. But I also drew a Star of David, a Christian cross, and the male and female symbols.”

The “Satan” lettering was unintentional, said artist David Bergman, 19, who drew the stylish “Nautilus” title. He said he was not aware of the Satan reference until after the yearbook came out and a student editor pointed it out to him.

“Although I’m not satanic, it kind of bothers me that if someone is satanic it’s regarded as something illegal,” he said.

The printer’s error drew the most outrage from students.

Yearbook printer Jostens, based in Visalia, sent a letter of apology to the school for the transposition of the letters. A spokesman for the printer could not be reached for comment.

Some were sure it was not caused by a typographical error.

“This is too blatant,” said Lee Richerson, 16. There are no African Americans on the yearbook staff, he noted, “and given that the (homecoming) king and queen were black, it’s just an example of blatant disrespect.”

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Parent Roxie Patton said she was offended by the homecoming photo. She said students and parents should have been notified sooner, to quash the rumor mill. “If a letter of apology came from the printer, it should have been distributed to the entire community.” she said.

Jago said the controversy surrounding the yearbook has drawn attention to the lack of diversity on the staff.

Principal Sylvia Rousseau met with Jago and the yearbook staff Thursday to discuss the controversy. It was not known whether the student artists would be reprimanded. Rousseau could not be reached for comment.

Before production began on the yearbook last fall, Jago said she told the staff to be creative, but not at the cost of controversy. Nicky Tarvin, a student editor, added that she asked the artists “to be honest with me, and tell me what things mean, so that if it was inappropriate, we could take it out.”

Some on the staff are chagrined at the controversy. “I think there was a total lack of responsibility on the part of Mrs. Jago, and the yearbook editors,” said Michael Tarle, 17, the photo editor. “I think we should have known what is appropriate. The editors are ultimately responsible.”

Others on the staff said it was the artists who should have used better judgment. Some parents are calling on school officials to more closely oversee the yearbook’s preparation.

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“I don’t like all that satanic stuff and the drug references,” said Linda Stamer, whose two children attend the school.

But many students took the whole affair in stride.

“I think people are reading too much into the art,” said Zion Lee, 17. “Besides, it’s a bad yearbook.”

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