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Rantz: Local libertarian high schooler left out of yearbook, but Karl Marx appears

If you don’t tow a progressive political line at many local high schools, life can be tough. One student from Clinton, Washington says he’s found that out the hard way.

A local, outspoken libertarian high school student had his photo omitted from the yearbook. The same can’t be said for noted communist and bigot Karl Marx. He was inexplicably included in the yearbook. And the school’s principal isn’t returning phone calls or emails to explain what happened.

Aryeh Rohde is a senior at South Whidbey High School. Like other students, he was excited to look through his yearbook with friends. He soon realized his photo wasn’t published.

“I was like, ‘you know, it could just be a mistake,’” Rohde told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “You know it happens. I’m not the only one not pictured in the senior grade. But then, flipping further, about page 99 in our yearbook, and the bottom right corner there’s a picture of Karl Marx. You know the father of communism!”

Rohde says he turned in his photo two days before the deadline. He suspects the omission has everything to do with two student critics of his.

Rohde is very active in local politics, spending a chunk of his time defending our Second Amendment rights. Last year, he appeared on my show to promote a student walkout in opposition to I-1639 that he organized. It’s made him unpopular with the local social justice club on campus, he says. Coincidentally, two students in that club are two of the students working on the yearbook.

Is it possible they purposefully kept Rohde’s photo out — but included a photo of Marx — out of spite or a prank?

“It wouldn’t be very surprising to me at all…” Rohde explains. “[Those students] have been harassing me, my friends, and my girlfriend for about over two years now because of my political activism. And one of them is a senior. He did the senior page and he’s in Social Justice Club.”

The school’s principal, John Patton, did not respond to repeated calls and emails seeking comment. But Rohde’s dad forwarded a mass email he says Patton sent, apologizing for what happened. At the time, a false rumor was circulating that the Marx photo appeared in the space for Rohde.

“You may have heard that a picture of Karl Marx with no caption was printed in the Sophomore section (page 99) of the 2018-19 yearbook,” the email says. “Our yearbook advisor and I apologize for this oversight and any concern or frustration this error may have caused.”

Patton doesn’t explain how this happened exactly. Traditionally, advisers closely review the work of the students and give it several look-throughs prior to sending it to a publisher.

The principal goes on to imply students whose photos did not appear in the yearbook, was due to tardiness in submitting the photo.

The school will not reprint the yearbook, despite the errors, “but Students will be provided a cover for the inappropriate image upon request.” He goes on to promise the “editing procedures will be revisited by staff to prevent this from happening in the future.”

But what about the harassment claims from Rohde? What if that played a role in this photo omission? Rohde says he’s repeatedly reported the harassment, but the concerns fell upon deaf ears.

“I’ve gone to the office, to our principal, talked to many teachers,” Rohde says. “Basically everyone in the office, and every time I do, they’re just like ‘Oh Aryeh, be the bigger man, you’re better than this! You don’t have to pursue this!’ and they always try to push it under the rug to make sure nothing happens.”

The irony is that Patton, on the school’s website, boasts of teaching “Character Strong Curriculum” because “research shows that when a school takes time to cultivate a culture of character and develop social-emotional skills, grades go up and bad behavior goes down.”

If the harassment Rohde claims is pervasive, and perceived as unaddressed, what exactly is the culture at South Whidbey High School? It’s a question I would love to ask Patton, if he’d return our calls or emails.

For Rohde, despite the harassment, he thinks all his activism is worth it. In fact, upon reflection, the adversity has helped him grow.

“I was actually just thinking about this the other day,” Rohde admitted. “I’m a wrestler. I’ve wrestled my entire life and my sophomore year I had to make a huge weight cut. I had to cut thirty two pounds and I only had two weeks to do it and I had no obligation to do it. I wasn’t forced to do it but I made that decision by myself. So, you know, to better myself knowing how far I can go and knowing it would put me in a better position to move on. And I always kind of think about that, comparing it to my politics because I always kind of just throw myself right in the middle of the hot pan, always trying to… start up conversations, seeing what other people’s beliefs are.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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