Warning: This story contains racist language and references to racist social media posts. Discretion is advised.
Days after a student’s family shared how his yearbook caption was replaced with an anti-Black derogatory message, Durham police say nine more students have come forward to say their messages were also tampered with.
Police said officers interviewed both staff and students from St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering to try to determine who was responsible for the replacing of Joshua Telemaque’s tribute to his late grandmother with a hateful anti-Black message.
The story first came to light after a picture was posted by Telemaque’s aunt, Mayma Raphael, on social media Saturday afternoon. She recalled how she received a “frantic” phone call from her sister after the yearbook discovery.
The quote to accompany his photo was supposed to be, “RIP Grandma. Thank you for guiding me through my four years of high school.” However, in the social media post, the photo showed it was replaced with, “Rip Harambe Dooga booga.O.”
The shocking message appears to reference Harambe, a gorilla that was kept at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio.
All 2019-2020 yearbooks were subsequently recalled by the school.
Nine more students have since come forward, police said, including another student saying their caption was replaced with racist messaging as well.
Police said one female student’s caption was changed to body shame her while another male student’s caption was replaced to shame his grades. All students affected, police said, were of various cultural backgrounds and were a mix of female and male.
Investigators said they still do not know who is responsible for the changes and are looking to speak to anyone who may have information.
In response to the incident, Pinball Clemons and the Toronto Argonauts awarded Telemaque with a four-year scholarship to the post-secondary institution of his choosing. He was also given a certificate from the mayor of Ajax from the town’s council.
Anyone who wishes to come forward can contact police at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 2529 or can contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.
—With files from Nick Westoll