Caryn Sullivan: Where’s the grace, Totino-Grace?

Social justice is laudable — except when it’s premised upon a falsehood. Then social justice becomes social injustice.

Caryn Sullivan

Do you remember your high school yearbook — the headshots, the team photos, the random candid shots? Well, apparently, yearbooks, like much of life today, are not what they used to be.

Over the weekend, Alpha News revealed that Totino-Grace High School’s 2021-2022 yearbook includes a full page of photos of four black individuals it claims were “murdered” — George Floyd, Amir Locke, and Daunte Wright in Minnesota, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Say their names” appears at the bottom of the page in large capital letters.

It’s true that all four died after encounters with law enforcement.

But only George Floyd was murdered.

Prosecutors determined officers involved in the shootings of Amir Locke and Breonna Taylor did not act unlawfully. No charges were brought.

Daunte Wright died In April 2021 during what should have been a routine traffic stop. When Wright failed to cooperate with officers the scene became chaotic. Former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter mistakenly discharged her handgun, instead of her taser, when she thought Wright was about to flee.

Potter was convicted of manslaughter, not murder. She is currently incarcerated.

Judge Regina Chu, who presided over the trial, recognized Wright’s death was not murder.

Before sentencing, Chu stated, “Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically.” Noting Potter never intended to hurt anyone, the judge imposed a sentence below the recommended guidelines.

We’re living in an era of social justice gone awry.

A Catholic high school yearbook devotes an entire page to something that is not only untrue, but is yet another effort to inflame, misinform, and perpetuate anti-police sentiment and action.

It castigates a profession that is rooted in service and sacrifice — core Catholic values.

Totino-Grace’s website describes a Catholic culture rooted in social justice. Social justice is laudable — except when it’s premised upon a falsehood. Then social justice becomes social injustice.

The school’s website also tells us that, for $16,000 per year, it offers exemplary teaching and scholastic rigor. It describes an educational experience founded on core values of learning, faith, service, and community.

In the context of the school yearbook, one must ask:

Where was the rigor?

Where was the fact-checking?

Where were the lessons about the importance of stating the truth?

And what about the faculty advisor? Was he or she complicit, bullied, or asleep at the wheel?

Potter served her community for 26 years. Then one day she made a fateful — and fatal — mistake.

Her mistake reminds we are imperfect humans; that at any moment we might hit the gas instead of the brakes or operate on the right arm instead of the left.

Cops step up. They protect and they serve — also core values of the school.

To include a page in the yearbook that suggests Kim Potter is a murderer?

Where’s the grace, Totino-Grace?

The school might be short on grace, but Potter is not.

At her sentencing, Potter told Wright’s family, “I am so sorry that I hurt you so badly. My heart is broken and devastated for all of you. I pray for Daunte and all of you many times a day. I do pray that one day you find forgiveness.”

Potter took responsibility for her actions. In contrast, Totino-Grace president Craig Junker sent a letter to families after concerns were raised about the yearbook. It’s tepid at best.

Noting Totino-Grace’s core values, Junker acknowledged that some of the yearbook’s content doesn’t fully reflect them. It’s a student publication, he said, but the oversight was “not effective in identifying the potential for concern around the content in question.”

He said efforts had been made to ensure it won’t happen again. But he failed to mention any consequences.

Though he reiterated support for individuals to form their own opinions, he failed to acknowledge that the content was blatantly false.

He failed to condemn it.

He failed to offer an apology to Potter — a graduate of Totino-Grace — or the many other families with law enforcement connections who do live the school’s core values.

Potter didn’t have an opportunity to undo her error. But the school does.

And yet, Junker doesn’t say they will reprint the yearbook.

But he does offer a refund.

Is that the price of truth at Totino-Grace – the cost of a yearbook?


Caryn Sullivan

A retired attorney and author of the award-winning memoir, "Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page," Caryn Sullivan has inspired readers with her thoughtful commentary for the past two decades. To learn more about Caryn’s work or to connect, visit