Yearbook photos of students breaking law upset parents, superintendent

INDIANA— Trevor Shirley expected to get some reaction when his high schoolyearbook published photos of studentslighting a marijuana pipe anddrinking alcohol, but not the“city-wide hot topic” he said it has become.

NorthCentral High School’s yearbook, which was released more than a month ago,featured a story about a student whose car was stolen along with the photos on atwo-page spread labeled “breaking the law.” The students in thephotos were unidentifiable and gave permission for the photos to run, saidShirley, editor in chief of the yearbook.

But now the yearbook hasdone more than raise a few eyebrows, as some parents have contacted the schoolvoicing their disappointment with the studentpublication.

Superintendent James Mervilde could not be reached forcomment, but he toldTheIndianapolis Star that the students had violated at least three schoolboard policies.

He told the local newspaper that district policy

“prohibits student expression that promotes substances harmful to studenthealth and that encourages illegal activity.”

According to thearticle, the school’s principal and yearbook adviser will be drafting newguidelines to ensure student publications abide by the school’s policy.

Shirley said he thinks the school’s policies concerningstudent publications are “a gray area.”

“It’s really gotten pretty out of hand pretty quickly,and in my estimation, we didn’t do anything wrong,” Shirley said.“If we had put [the photos] on a page called ‘weekend fun’ itwould be a totally different issue.

“These parents come up andsay [we are] glorifying drug and alcohol use and my response is that we put iton the ‘breaking the law’ page showing that yes, these activitiesare a violation of the law.”

Tom Gayda, the yearbook’sadviser, said he did not think the material in the yearbook was verycontroversial.

“Our publications have covered so many touchysubjects that the [photos] in this yearbook seemed pretty tame to me,”

Gayda said. “Many people have said the kids have glamorized and promotedthese activities, but I hardly see this as aglorification.”

Shirley maintained that alcohol and drug use iscommon in a lot of high schools and said the real issue has to do with theparents.

“I think it’s a generational thing,” hesaid. “To parents, yearbooks were always what was great about highschool…we were just trying to paint an accurate, true-to-life portrait of theyear and there are obviously things that make you uncomfortable that you wouldrather not address, but that do go on.”

After parents startedto voice concern about the publication, Shirley sent a letter to Mervildeexplaining the reasoning for running the photos. Shirley wrote in the letter,“It truly disappoints me that seemingly educated and concerned parentswould misconstrue and warp our message rather than use it to segue into adiscussion about the dangers of drugs and alcohol with theirchildren.”

Shirley said that Mervilde responded thankingShirley for sharing his viewpoint and “letting me know that he understoodmy opinion.”

“If I was [the superintendent] I wouldrather have a public relations issue over the fact that our yearbook ran somepictures that weren’t looked favorably on as opposed to a public relationsincident dealing with a violation of the First Amendment,” Shirley said.