Kaitlyn Booth, 17, a junior at Hickman High School in Columbia, Mo., was arrested earlier this month after a prank in which she she changed a student’s last name to “Masturbate” in the 2013 yearbook.
Booth faces charges of harassment as well as first-degree property damage, a felony, in addition to unspecified school punishment.
The name change is found on page 270 of the yearbook, the page that features the index. Hickman High School’s student newspaper, the Purple and Gold, reports that after the electronic yearbook file was corrected and indexed, Booth changed the last name to “Masturbate” and saved over the file, which was prepared for the printer.
Hickman’s principal, Tracey Conrad, told The Columbia Daily Tribune that cost was the biggest factor in imposing such serious punishment. “We didn’t know how much it was going to cost to rectify the situation,” Conrad said. “It was defacing property.”
Yearbook adviser Kim Acropolis said reprinting the 720 yearbooks would cost about $41,000. In lieu of reprinting, yearbook students covered the word “Masturbate” with stickers bearing “Mastain,” the student’s actual last name.
Raigan Mastain, a senior graphic designer on the yearbook staff, told the Daily Tribune that she and Booth worked together but weren’t friends, and she hasn’t spoken to Booth since her arrest.
“I was disappointed, but I didn’t know her well enough to be personally affected,” Mastain told the Daily Tribune. “What she did wasn’t right, but I don’t think it should affect her for the rest of her life.”
Adam Goldstein, the Student Press Law Center’s attorney advocate, says this case hinges on whether Booth’s change is considered vandalism or an editorial decision.
“If the editors endorsed or adopted the change it’s an editorial decision — it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, but whether it’s vandalism depends on if the editors endorsed or adopted the change,” Goldstein said.
Regarding the harassment charge, Goldstein says he doesn’t “see any way Missouri’s harassment statutes would apply” to this situation. The statute describes harassment as an action “so severe or pervasive to prevent someone from getting an education.”