Mich. principal recalls yearbook, removes adviser over

MICHIGAN — The principal of Detroit’s Cody High School removed the adviser of the school’s publications program on June 3 because of material in the 2005 yearbook considered by some faculty members to be “inappropriate.”

The “inappropriate” material includes a picture of a gay couple at homecoming and a coded message on a senior “Confessions” page that school officials believe accuses certain teachers at the school of sexual behavior with students, according to the Detroit Free Press.

On June 3, Alumni Association President Ruth Jordan said, Principal Ronnie Phillips and other faculty members ripped the offending pages from existing yearbooks and edited the material out before additional copies of the book could be printed and distributed.

Prior to adviser Robin Williams’ dismissal, the Detroit Free Press reported that Phillips and other staff members met with seniors on May 26 to issue an ultimatum to those who had received a copy of the yearbook released the day before. The ultimatum: return the yearbook or be excluded from graduation ceremonies on June 14.

Mattie Majors of the Detroit Public Schools’ media relations department denied the accuracy of the report, saying Phillips did not issue the ultimatum.

“We want the kids to return the books because we’d like to do this,” Majors said. “If a kid doesn’t return the book then they don’t return the book.”

Majors also denied that the photo of the gay couple caused the staff’s objections.

“There’s a senior confessions page and there were some comments on that page that they felt were a little inappropriate,” she explained. “[Phillips] talked to his staff about that and they felt that maybe some of these things wouldn’t be really good memories.”

The senior confessions page includes comments from the school’s graduating students. The page is edited by the yearbook staff.

Some staff members are very offended by the yearbook, Jordan said, but she disagreed with the manner in which Phillips handled the situation.

“[From the beginning] he should have addressed [the situation] with the adviser,” Jordan said, adding that Phillips called the yearbook’s editor in chief into his office and spoke with her in an “inappropriate manner.”

“He should have had her parent with her,” Jordan said.

The students on the yearbook staff want to put the situation behind them and look forward to graduation, she said.

“It’s very stressful [for the students],” Jordan explained, adding that members of yearbook staff were harassed by their peers as well as by some adults at the school.

Jordan, who has counseled the yearbook staff since the outcry began, said Williams guided students to quality yearbooks for eight years, never receiving a complaint until the 2005 edition.

“She’s had some award-winning yearbooks and she’s had some people who have received full scholarships from the Detroit Free Press,” Jordan said.

Williams will remain at the school as a faculty member. Williams did not return phone calls or e-mails for further comment. Majors did not return phone calls or e-mails for comment on Williams’ dismissal as adviser.

–By Mike Hart