Controversial bestiality article forces adviser out of position

WASHINGTON — A high school newspaper adviser in the small farming community of Stanwood will be teaching her classes from a cart beginning this fall, as punishment for letting a controversial article about bestiality run in the school paper.Val Schroeder was notified in early May that she was being replaced as adviser for the Spartan Spectrum, stripping her of her position, her journalism class and her classroom.The controversy began when student writer Liz Davis wrote an article for the Spectrum entitled, “How many of you out there live on a farm?” The article included a statistic from a research institute that one out of every five males that live on farms engage or attempt to engage in bestiality. Davis also interviewed a guidance counselor and reminded readers that bestiality is illegal.The principal and others in the community found the article inappropriate and embarrassing and blamed Schroeder for letting it run in the paper, especially after the incident attracted national media attention. Schroeder said it was after this attention that she was called into the principal’s office and notified of her reassignment. She said the state Journalism Education Association has backed her, saying she did what she was supposed to do when she decided to “give ownership of the paper to the students.”Mitch Cogdill, Schroeder’s lawyer from the teacher’s union, emphasized that the article in question does not meet any test of obscenity, meaning that students had the legal right to control its content under state law. He said the union plans to sue the school board, the principal and the superintendent in retaliation for unfairly replacing Schroeder.Cogdill said the principal has denied that Schroeder’s reassignment is a punishment for the article. The principal has said, rather, that the school board wants the journalism program to go in a different direction than the one Schroeder was leading it in.Schroeder will retain her position as an English teacher at the school.