Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Whoops, Wentzville!

First, let me say hello to everyone again.  Its been several months since I've blogged about the Wentzville School District, but I decided to let sleeping dogs lie for awhile.

Yes, I could have shared a dismissive (but grossly fascinating) email exchange with Matthew Diechmann, the district's "public relations" person, in which a publication parent attempts to meet the district halfway by organizing meetings to create a policy that works for everyone.  (The District would have none of that... dang uppity parents!)

And sure, I could have shared the fact that the Wentzville School District went ahead and changed their publication policy - without any publication parental input - so that Assistant Superintendent Melody Marcantonio has final say on what gets censored. 

And, I could have mentioned that the Wentzville School District decided to fund the publication budget, instead of allowing the publication to conduct ad sales (as it has done for years prior to Principal Winston Rogers and Marcantonio), in order to remove the legal defense of the paper being an "independent forum".

I could have also complained about the inexplicable, punitive and dubious reasons that the Wentzville Administration had for cancelling the publication's award trip to Kansas City. (And before someone starts yelling "budget cutbacks", this trip is FULLY funded by publication parents and students... unlike the tax payer money now being used to publish the paper due to removal of ad sales.)

However, I just couldn't resist speaking out any longer, given yesterday's developments.  But, I think a little background recap is needed to better understand what has happened...

If you recall, much of the turmoil from last year's censorship debacle came from the attempted publication in Timberland High School's newspaper of an article about tattoos.  In particular, there were photos that Principal Winston Rogers and Assistant Superintendent Melody Marcantonio found offensive.  (Click here to view the original Timberland High School article.)  Winston Rogers has argued that he tows a zero tolerance line on tattoos, which the Wentzville School District has implicitly backed by their non-action on the subject.  They had also argued that the harassment against their publication faculty sponsor was based on the zero-tolerance tattoo policy, and not an attempt to drive her from the school (for whatever reason.)

Now, let's fast-forward to yesterday, about one year from the tattoo article's attempted publication.  In the Wentzville Middle Schools, school administration handed out temporary tattoos to students in recognition of "red ribbon week", part of the school district's anti-drug education.  Students were given the "red ribbon" tattoos, and were encouraged to wear them at school.

Uh... Seriously?!?

With my whole being, I hope the district is getting an earful from the same parents that defended Rogers, and thanked him for "saving their children from tattoos."  But since I'm certain that promoting a tattoo culture in middle school is somehow "different" from printing educational articles about tattoos in high school, the mighty-morals will be nice and quiet.

My belief is that by actually using tattoos as an educational tool, the Wentzville School District has shown their hand from the game they played last school year.  The issue wasn't about anti-tattoo policy, or about censoring inappropriate material, it was instead the personal vendetta of a school administrator against a journalism teacher that embarrassed her years earlier.

Unfortunately, those that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
...or should that read, "Those that spout zero-tolerance on tattoos shouldn't promote tattoos?"