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PLEASANT HILL, Calif.  — A substitute secretary apparently mistook a racist cartoon for a harmless comic and sent it to parents and others as part of a Northern California middle school’s newsletter.

The Contra Costa Times reports the newsletter sent last week from Sequoia Middle School in Pleasant Hill included a Peanuts cartoon showing a black character with a noose around his neck beneath the words “White Pride.”

School officials say the cartoon was in fact evidence in a 3-year-old hate crime investigation stemming from racist graffiti on a campus mural.

Principal Connie Cirimeli wrote in a letter to the community Sunday that the busy secretary added the digital image to the newsletter without closely examining it. She said the secretary then sent out the newsletter without having other staffers proofread it, contrary to school policy.

Cirimeli added that “appropriate personnel action” would be taken. She did not elaborate.

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