Editors battle principal over yearbook

CALIFORNIA — Almost a year has passed since the principal of SalinasHigh School first put the yearbook staff on probation for what he describedas a publication filled with inappropriate content. As the June deadlinefor the yearbook quickly approaches, staff members are starting to wonderwhen the battle will end.

Although the initial probation was set at a year, the staff of ElGabilan is not optimistic about the probation being lifted anytimesoon after principal Joseph Pawlick censored sections of the 2000 edition,claiming it contained gang references, sexual innuendoes and spelling andgrammatical errors.

At a February meeting of the Salinas Union High School District Boardof Trustees, Pawlick said the yearbook contained material that advocatedgangs and drug use. He also criticized the senior quote section, sayingthat several of the quotes contained profanity and sexual connotations.

Yearbook adviser Cynthia Hess said Pawlick’s accusations were falseand groundless.

“This is absurd,” Hess said. “There are no obscenities or gang referencesin this yearbook.”

Hess pointed to the fact that, in spite of the accusations, Pawlickcould not provide evidence of such material in the yearbook. Trustees askedPawlick on two occasions to provide examples to back up his accusations.Both times he failed to show any material containing gang and drug referencesor sexual innuendoes.

“There are no gang references and that’s why he can’t show proof ofit,” yearbook editor Minerva Herrera said.

Pawlick, however, has found support from the superintendent and schoolboard president.

Herrera said that on several occasions, Pawlick threatened to censorsections of the yearbook if the staff refused to make the specified changes.

“He was trying to intimidate us,” she said. “But it’s not his rightto be editing students’ material.”

Hess agreed.

“[Pawlick] says he wants the comments out because they make the schoollook bad, but what he’s done makes the school look far worse than anythingin print,” she said.

Pawlick did not return numerous phone calls made to his office by theReport.

In the end, Herrera said, changes were made to the yearbook, includingsome of the senior quotes, because several seniors voiced concerns aboutpossibly not having their quotes in the yearbook. One senior quote thatPawlick labeled sexually explicit was “High school is like a lollipop,it sucks until the end,” a comment Herrera said was not sexual in any way.

“It’s disheartening to see something you’ve worked so hard for go withoutmeaning,” Herrera said. “Everything has been changed. It doesn’t reallyseem like part of you anymore.”

Herrera has funneled her frustrations into a new venture: an undergroundnewspaper called The Inferno that she described as an attempt toprovide the student body with uncensored views.

She said the purpose of The Inferno is not to attack the schoolnewspaper but to try to “give something back to the school that the realnewspaper can’t.”