MISSOURI — Agreeing to a court’s request, two highschool newspapers in the Independence School District publishedletters of apology in February that were written by students involvedin a girl’s death.
The Envoy at William Chrisman High School and TheSpirit of 2001 at Truman High School agreed to print the lettersafter a judge ordered Brad Cook, a junior at Truman, and AdamVader, a junior at Chrisman, to write letters of apology as partof their punishment for their involvement in a driving accidentin September, which claimed the life of Mistyka Fielder, a juniorat Truman.
According to Ron Clemons, The Spirit of 2001 adviser,and Christy Little, The Envoy adviser, neither publicationstaff initially wanted to print the letters.
Clemons said he would have argued against the letter if thecourts or the school had changed the content of the letter ortold the student what to write.
"I have a problem with someone writing a letter when theyhave been told to do it," Clemons said. "I think aletter should come from the heart."
"I really didn’t have a big problem with it," saidKyle Palmer, The Spirit editor. "The only issue Iwould’ve brought up was if the letter had been changed, if itwasn’t his handwriting or if it wasn’t his work. But, it was obviousthat he had written it and he was sincere about it."
According to Little, The Envoy staff disapproved ofpublishing the letter because they thought they were being orderedto print it after a meeting with the principal, who expressedhis desire to go along with the court’s request.
"He never said they had to print the letter, he just saidhe wanted them to," Little said. "The students calmeddown and felt comfortable with printing the letter when they realizedit wasn’t so much an order."
Both newspaper staffs finally agreed to publish the lettersafter getting approval from the students and their families.
"Ultimately, [Vader’s] family did express that at thispoint they wanted to get on with their lives and they wanted theletter published," Little said. "When the boy’s familysaid they were okay with it, everyone was okay with it."
According to Palmer, printing the letter was the right thingto do. "I think it was something that helped [Cook], andalso helped the student body kind of be able to move on past this."
"I think it was almost therapeutic in that regard,"Palmer added.
The letters, which were printed in each newspaper’s Lettersto the Editor section along with other letters, sparked few complaintsbut elicited many student responses.
In addition to writing the letters of apology, the two boys,both juveniles at the time of the accident, were sentenced tohouse arrest until March 15, 500 hours of community service andthe revocation of driving privileges until the age of 21.