By Andy Gammill
North Central High School officials are revising policies that govern student publications after a page in the 2006 yearbook promoted drug and alcohol use, Superintendent James Mervilde said this week.
Students violated at least three school board policies in creating page 39 of the yearbook, which showed students drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco products and using illegal drugs, Mervilde said. Captions suggest that the activities were a positive experience. No faces were visible in the photos.
The superintendent said he had received many calls from parents and does not believe the page represents the values of the district.
He also said, however, that he believes some people unfairly used the incident to tarnish the reputation of Washington Township Schools. The page has received widespread media attention, and been a topic on talk radio.
“I regret the fact that some people have used this unfortunate publication ..... to draw broad inferences about Washington Township,” Mervilde said. “I don't think we’ve dropped our standards. I don't think we’ve lessened our moral standards in any regard. I think what we have here is an error, a bobble.”
Mervilde said students’ actions in this case clearly went against rules set forth by the school board:
- District policy prohibits student expression that promotes substances harmful to student health and that encourages illegal activity.
- District character values require the district to encourage responsibility and lawful behavior.
- The district’s human relations policy requires that students treat one another with respect.
Mervilde said Principal CEQuandt and publications adviser Tom Gayda will be drafting new guidelines for student media to ensure that they follow those board policies.
Board members said they had disapproved of the yearbook, as well.
“The board was displeased with what they saw, also,” Board Vice President Lori Schlabach said. “I’m confident things are moving the right direction now.”
Call Star reporter Andy Gammill at (317) 444-2607.