A high schoolnewspaper and yearbook adviser resigned March 9 after being placed on paidadministrative leave because of a controversy over articles about sex in anissue of the student newspaper.
Salina Central High School journalismadviser Jenny Acree informed the Salina School District that she was resigningbecause of “personal reasons” after two weeks of paid leave, school boardPresident Richard Brake said. The school board put Acree on leave pending theoutcome of an investigation into the newspaper’s publication.
Communityreaction to The Pylon’s Feb. 13 issue, which contained articles onteenage sexuality, received front-page coverage in the Salina Journal forfour days and was a topic on local talk radio. Several radio callers whoconsidered the articles inappropriate for teenagers made personal attacksagainst Acree, said Brenna Hawley, The Pylon’s features editor. At asubsequent school board meeting, students apologized for thearticles.
One article, titled “Sex is Sex,” quoted anonymous sources in adiscussion of whether oral sex is sex. The article included the results of asexual behavior survey of an undisclosed number of Salina Central students.Another article, which included some sexual innuendo, provided a “recipe” for”Smells Like Sodomy Pot Roast.”
Hawley said she learned of Acree’sresignation from a story in the Salina Journal.
“I think Iunderstand why she [resigned],” Hawley said. “If she’d stayed, she would havelived her life under a microscope. If any tiny mistake had been in the paper,she would have gotten lots of comments from the community.”
Acree did notrespond to requests for comment.
Brake declined to comment further onAcree’s resignation, but he said publication of the newspaper wouldcontinue.
“I feel that [sex] is a very appropriate topic for a highschool newspaper if it’s done responsibly. I think there was much room forimprovement in their journalistic skills,” Brake said, citing the sexualbehavior survey, which contained no explanation of the survey’smethodology.
Students are working on the next issue of The Pylonunder the supervision of a substitute teacher. Hawley said the newspaper staffwas told the school is “actively searching for a new teacher.”
SPLC View:Sadly, what all of the adviser’s critics seem not to understand is that underKansas’s student publications’ law, the adviser – just like any other schoolofficial – was legally limited in her ability to control the content of ThePylon. While she had the responsibility to advise the students andencourage quality journalism, final editorial decisions – and the ultimateresponsibility for them – rested with the student editors. If mistakes weremade, the student staff of The Pylon have learned some important lessons.It is unfortunate, however, that the adviser – who obeyed the law – is the onerequired to pay the price for those mistakes.