High school yearbook misidentifies Muslim student as ‘Isis Phillips’


A high school yearbook is supposed to be a keepsake, but for a Muslim student in Rancho Cucamonga it will be a painful reminder of being misidentified as “Isis Phillips” in a photo that showed her smiling and wearing a hijab.

Bayan Zehlif, a student at Los Osos High School, posted a photo from one of the yearbook’s pages on Twitter and Facebook. The caption below the photo did not have her name but instead identified her as Isis Phillips.

Years ago, such a blunder might be dismissed as a simple misprint, but Isis — once a popular baby name — is today often associated with the acronym for the extremist group Islamic State.


“I am extremely saddened, disgusted, hurt and embarrassed that the Los Osos High School yearbook was able to get away with this,” Zehlif wrote on Facebook. “Apparently, I am ‘Isis’ in the yearbook. 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.”

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Chaffey Joint Union High School District Supt. Mat Holton said Zehlif was incorrectly identified as another student named Isis. He said the school has contacted the families of both students and assured them that an investigation will be conducted.

“If they find that a student acted irresponsibly and intentionally, administration will take appropriate actions,” Holton said. “The school will assure students, staff and the community that this regrettable incident in no way represents the values, or beliefs, of Los Osos High School.”

Holton said the issue surfaced on Friday after the school distributed 287 yearbooks to its seniors. He said the school halted any further release of the yearbooks until it fixes the error.


Students who already received yearbooks are being asked to return them, Holton said.

The incident sparked anger on social media from people accusing the school of espousing hate and calling for the students and staff members responsible to be held accountable.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called for a “thorough investigation” in a statement released Sunday, alleging that the incident may not have been the first for the school.

The statement said Zehlif and her family had suffered emotional and psychological distress and that she probably would not return to school until the issue is resolved.

“We join with the family in their concern about a possible bias motive for this incident and in the deep concern for their daughter’s safety as a result of being falsely labeled as a member of a terrorist group,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the council’s Los Angeles chapter. “No student should have to face the humiliation of being associated with a group as reprehensible as ISIS.”

Los Osos Principal Susan Petrocelli apologized on Twitter. She said the school was investigating the “regrettable misprint.”

The school’s yearbook staff also issued an apology.

“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,” the Twitter post. “We should have checked each name carefully in the book and we had no intention to create this misunderstanding. It is our fault and this is absolutely inexcusable on our part.”

For more education news, follow @zahiratorres on Twitter.


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