GEORGIA — The principal of Chattooga High School in Summervilleordered four consecutive pages be cut out of the 2009 edition of the yearbooklast week because of photographs of shirtless males playing basketball that hedeemed inappropriate.
The new adviser of Chattooga’s yearbook showed the four pages of theprevious year’s edition — compiled under a different adviser –that contained the photographs to first-year Principal Jimmy Lenderman. The bookwas to be distributed to students and staff who ordered it and paid $50 inadvance. After the adviser discussed the photographs with Lenderman, she cut thepages out of each copy of the book to be distributed.
“She looked at [the book], saw these pictures, brought it to myattention and removed them,” Lenderman said, speaking on behalf of the adviser. “They did not representthe way that we want our school portrayed, and the way the community valuesitself. If it was my son or daughter, it would not be something I would want inthere. This is a course for the students.”
The photographs of the men were part of the “summer activities” spread for the student life section, a section for which it is routinelydifficult to get photos, since they need to be taken over the summer when schoolis not in session, Dr. Alan Perry, former yearbook adviser, said.
But studentphotographer Tyler Barker, who graduated, was able to take pictures of hisclassmates from Chattooga playing basketball in a church gym.
“I was with them playing basketball,” Barker said. “I hadthe camera with me so I just started taking pictures.”
Barker, upset about the removal of the pages, confronted the new yearbookadviser, who told him that in one of the photographs, a male student was smilingand holding a cell phone and dollar bills, which had drug-related implications.
The adviser said to Barker, “What do you think thatimplies?'” To which he replied, “I don’t know … thathe is happy?” And she said, “No, it implies drug dealing,” according to Barker.
The page removal has caused a significant number of complaints, accordingto Perry, who was in charge of last school year’s yearbook and hasreceived e-mails from aggravated former students. Perry was able to obtain acopy before the pages were removed when he received an e-mail around the firstof September notifying him of the arrival of the books. The new adviser,however, locked up the rest of the books and held off on distribution to preventdistraction.
“The new adviser had them locked up and she said they weren’tgiving them out yet because the students were studying for some kind ofgradation test,” Perry said. “But I went ahead and got mine. Now twomonths had passed and I noticed they were finally giving them out. Then I got tolooking on Facebook, and all these students from last year were complaining thattheir books had been mutilated.”
In 27 years of advising the yearbook at Chattooga High School, Dr. Perrynever submitted pages to administration for approval, and never had anycensorship problems.
“Everyone who’s seen them says there is nothing offensivehere,” Perry said. “If you look back at all the yearbooks over theyears, we’ve always had shirtless boys in them. And this year’s bookalso had some pages from the chorus musical, and there were some shirtless boysin that play, and their pictures were in the yearbook.”
Perry scanned all four missing pages of the book and posted them on hisFacebook account for his students to see.