Yearbook 'confessions' prompt Va. principal to demand reprinting

VIRGINIA — The principal of Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg isordering that all 2009-2010 yearbooks be reprinted before the school yearconcludes after anonymous ‘confessions’ that mentioned sexualbehavior and drug use were published in the book.

Principal Joe Rodkey has stopped distribution of all yearbooks and isresolved to reprint them without the “offensive” material by June11, according to a statement released by the school district.

The yearbook, titled “Glances 2010, Truth Be Told,” containsmultiple pages with students’ secrets solicited by the yearbook staffthrough a Facebook page created in August 2009 called “MassaponaxYearbook.” Through this page, students were asked to anonymously submittheir secrets. The page also encouraged students to pick up fliers around theschool soliciting confessions.

The yearbook pages contain anonymous statements from students that saythings such as: “I have sex with people just to feel wanted” and”I once did so much pot that I woke up high.”

Through these confessions, the yearbook staff intended to show that despitetheir differences, everyone has secrets, said Tanya McClure, a yearbook staffmember.

“We’re showing what high school is actually about, how peoplefeel, struggles people go through,” McClure said. “We weren’ttrying to focus on the negative things. Massaponax is a great school, but it hasits problems just like any other school.”

According to a statement, the school district is of the opinion thatyearbooks should “reflect the positive accomplishments of astudent’s high school experience,” and that this yearbook did notaccomplish that.

“The students, school, and community have come to expect such aquality yearbook from Massaponax High School,” Superintendent Dr. JerryHill said in the statement. “It is most unfortunate that inappropriatecomments found their way into the 2010 yearbook.”

Both Rodkey and Hill declined to comment for this story.

The yearbook theme, as well as the concept of the anonymous confessions,has been well known throughout the school since the beginning of the schoolyear. Because of this, McClure said the yearbook staff did not anticipate anyresistance from the administration.

“I really think the beginning of the year when we introduced thetheme and talked about the confessions would have been the perfect time forsomeone to tell us ‘no,’ ” McClure said. “But no onegave us any restrictions. This was what the students wanted to print, and no onemade them submit these things. It was a really supported idea throughout theschool. We thought what we were doing was right, and I still think it’sright.”

McClure said the yearbook staff kept Rodkey updated on the progress of thebook — including the confessions — throughout the year, but he did notread any content until after printing.

After his discovery of the content of the confessions, Rodkey calledmembers of the yearbook staff out of class into a mandatory meeting with himselfand the yearbook adviser, Courtney McGonnell, during which he explained hisconcerns with the yearbook.

While some yearbooks have already been distributed at an after-schoolsigning party, McClure said Rodkey is working to find out how many weredistributed and to whom they were given so that he can contact them, apologizeand send a new book.

According to a May 20 story in Fredericksburg’s The FreeLance-Star, reprinting the books without the confessions could cost tens ofthousands of dollars.