DANA POINT (CBSLA.com) — A student says he wore a traditional Middle Eastern headdress known as a keffiyah in his senior portrait to exercise his free speech.
“I wanted to provoke the school system into stereotyping me and censoring me,” said Jonathon Kari, who explains that he wore the head scarf to make a point.
“And I wanted to open people’s eyes to the fact that this is still happening. People are still stereotyping and still putting down on people who they think are inferior to them,” he said.
Sara Madani, the editor of the Dana Hills High School yearbook, was surprised.
“If you wear something for religious or cultural purposes, obviously you are more than welcome to wear that in your senior portrait,” said Madani. “This student doesn’t wear that every day. He never has.”
Madani says her student staff of 30 unanimously voted against using Kari’s picture in the yearbook, which she describes as a keepsake parents buy to hold precious memories.
“A photo has no words so whoever sees the photo in a product that parents pay for, they’re gonna perceive however they perceive it which could be offensively,” she said.
“I can see how it would be offensive to people who are ignorant to the fact that it’s a universal piece of clothing,” countered Kari. “I’m not trying to make fun of any particular race or any religion. This is just a form of free speech.”
Kari’s father wrote a letter to the Capistrano Unified School District asking that the yearbook support his son’s First Amendment rights.
Madani says she supports free speech.
The high school yearbook, though, she says isn’t the platform for it.
“Start a club, write an article, get a soapbox and stand in the middle of the cafeteria and yell it out for everyone to hear, but to put it in the yearbook, that just is obscure and doesn’t make any sense,” she said.
Madani says the school district supported her decision not to print the photograph in a yearbook.
“For us to allow that would be setting a precedent saying, ‘Hey, say whatever you want, the yearbook is your mouth piece. We are your mouth piece to do this.’That’s never been the case and it won’t be the case,” she said.
Kari says he is Filipino and Caucasian and has no ties to the Middle East.
CBS2/KCAL9 reached out to the Capistrano Unified School District for comment but had not heard back at time of publication.