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Board Responds to Cover of TEC Journal

Dear CEC Members,

We share your sentiments and concerns regarding the most recent TEC Journal. Seeing the photo of Black students and the accompanying headline, “Addressing Behaviors in the Classroom,” warranted a public apology, a thorough investigation, and a corrective action plan to prevent this inappropriate incident moving forward. The depiction of a group of Black students, a majority being male, with an implied headline of behavior problems is insulting. Further, the perception reinforced by this cover is misleading. This perception is against our personal values and against the values of CEC. It further stigmatizes Black, male youth who deserve our attention in addressing such disproportionate and judgmental disciplinary actions in our system.

For this egregious error, we offer our sincerest apologies. We also tasked both our editorial team (responsible for content selection and review) and our production team (responsible for graphic design and layout) to clearly outline the workflow which resulted in this error. We have come to understand that the pairing of the headline and photo was a matter of an error in fidelity for the workflow process not the result of someone intentionally messaging derogative views about Black males.

In the sections below, we share with you step by step how the selection of cover art took place; the procedures must be strengthened and improved effective immediately. You will also find a letter of apology from both the academic editor and the managing editor for not catching the error. As leaders in this field with personal knowledge of staff and editors, we take the sincerity of these apologies to be heartfelt and genuine. We do not believe that implicit bias played a role, nor was there any intentionality in this depiction of content.

Please note that we have instructed staff, through our Executive Director Chad Rummel, to immediately impose new structures that call for the review of content to ensure this does not happen again. Mr. Rummel will report back to the Board within 14 days with a plan for ensuring the final review of content, including a Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity and Accessibility (DEIA) review (and note below the opportunity to provide input for the process). We have faith in our team, our journal, and our strategic direction—now, we must ensure processes are in place to guide that direction. 

We want to thank each of you who had the courage to speak up against this content and for those who continue to fight against racism and for culturally responsive education, which reflects the values of CEC. As a Board, we are striving to introduce initiatives within CEC to promote and support DEIA, including our BIPOC Travel Awards, our Racial Justice Grants, and our new (not released) Diversity Leadership Academy.  While these initiatives address the need for more diverse representation in CEC, we also recognize the need to implement strategies that work to reduce implicit bias within the organization. We firmly believe we are stronger when we work together to move CEC forward toward inclusivity, equity, and justice. We encourage anyone with insight as to how we may improve the journal production of CEC to be more DEIA affirmative or to make CEC a more equitable organization, to email our Executive Director, Chad Rummel, at

Forward. Together., 

The CEC Board of Directors
Angie Jasper, President
Danielle Kovach, Immediate Past President 
Kareem Thompson, President-Elect 
Jennifer Lesh, Treasurer 
Chad Rummel, Secretary (ex-officio) 
Terese Aceves, Member at Large 
Anna Adl, Member at Large 
Joy Banks, Member at Large 
Ben Hicks, Member at Large 
Sacha Cartagena, Member at Large 
Kurt Hulett, Thought Leader 
Laural Jackson, Member at Large 
Concetta Lewis, Member at Large 
Charmion Rush, Member at Large 
Zelphine Smith-Dixon, Member at Large 
Benjamin Tillotson, Member at Large
Mitchell Yell, Member at Large 


How the Error Occurred 

(Provided by Chad Rummel, Executive Director) 

At the request of the Board of Directors, I submit the following process dialogue as to how the art selections occur for TEC.  

Once a manuscript is selected for the issue, authors are asked to go to the server of stock photos and select the photo they want. These are sent to and reviewed by the Academic Editor (Dawn Rowe). In this case, Tim Landrum and Lauren Collins (authors of “Using Behavioral Interventions to Build Relationships with Students with Challenging Behaviors”), selected the image in question to correspond with their article on page 188. The photo is reflective of a proactive strategy identified in Table 1 regarding teachers greeting students at the door.  

The list of articles and images is sent to the publisher/printer for the inside pages and to the outside firm that CEC hires to design the cover and Table of Contents. The outside firm looks at all the images provided for the various articles in the issue and selects the one that best fits (from a production side, not from the content of the image). While this has been the process for 5+ years, it obviously leaves wide oversight gaps. When a tagline is used on the cover (only for thematic issues), it is provided by the Academic Editor (Dawn Rowe) and sent to the Managing Editor (Annie Drinkard) separately. In this case, the tagline of “Addressing Behaviors in the Classroom” was not reviewed against the photo chosen by the outside design firm. While the photo may have been appropriate for the particular article, it was not appropriate when paired alongside the tagline and an issue about behavior. There was never an intentional choice by anyone writing or reviewing content to select that particular photo for the cover alongside the tagline; however, there was most certainly a lack of intentional review to ensure that TEC content reflects the values of CEC. 

The final cover and issue copy are sent to both the Academic Editor (Dawn Rowe) and the Managing Editor (Annie Drinkard) for final review. It’s at this phase that the cover, tagline and all article titles and authors should be reviewed for accuracy and edits returned to the designer. Both Dawn and Annie admitted fault in not giving the issue the review attention it deserved and noted that they did not conduct an overall review of the journal cover including article titles, photos, and headlines as was apparent by additional mistakes on the cover.  

As a mechanism to ensure this issue of the journal no longer propagates the notion that Black, male youth have behavior issues AND to ensure that we no longer have production problems like this in the future, I propose the following: 

  1. CEC pays whatever funds are required to have the publisher replace the photos online and in the electronic database, along with an editorial note and apology for the mistake; 
  2. CEC includes an editorial comment in the next print issue of TEC explaining the error in process and apologizing for the error. There’s a lesson to be learned about context, which would be valuable to any discussion on anti-racism and social justice;  
  3. Moving forward, cover art selection will not be left at the discretion of a design firm. Instead, we will move the cover design process in-house and/or be intentional in selection of the art that goes to the outside design firm. A final approval review process will be drafted to share with future editorial teams. 
  4. The Executive Director will work with the current production and editorial team (as well as the incoming team) to ensure that final-stage checks, which may include a DEIA matrix, are created along with a final product Quality Assurance checklist. We will build off the foundational work already done by Project 20/20 and will include the new CEC Diversity Committee in the process. 


Apology from Academic Editor and Managing Editor 

Thank you to all who shared their concerns regarding the cover of the most recent issue of TEACHING Exceptional Children (i.e., 55.3). We recognize that the choice of this image paired with the tagline is not acceptable and that it caused pain and distress. Please know that we are deeply sorry for the harm that we caused, and that we are committed to learning and growing from this experience. 

Teaching Exceptional Children is committed to being anti-racist and culturally responsive and is taking steps to prevent any future harm. We apologize for the harm this cover caused our members and others who read TEC. We understand that our lack of attention to detail has had a significant impact and we will continue to work to ensure inclusivity and equity. We acknowledge the cultural context of this situation and recognize that acts like these continue to perpetuate the issues around disproportionate disciplinary actions in our schools. Again, we apologize for this oversight in the production process.  

We are working closely with Sage Publications to redesign and republish the cover. We are also working to refine our editorial and production process to catch these types of issues prior to publication in the future. 

Once again, we apologize. 


Dawn A. Rowe and Annie Drinkard
Academic Editor and Managing Editor
TEACHING Exceptional Children

Posted:  30 March, 2023

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