Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 7, 2013

Student paper’s graphic causes uproar


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A satirical graphic and text about sexually suggestive dancing in Traverse City Central High School’s student newspaper crossed a line of appropriateness, district officials said.

The newspaper graphic depicts a four-stage guide to “grinding,” a form of dancing that prompted Central administrators to crack down on student behavior at a homecoming dance last fall. The illustration includes pictures of two female students demonstrating how to grind, with one student suggestively bent over in front of the other.

The illustration and text appeared in the March 1 issue of the Black & Gold, less than two weeks after Central students put together an off-campus dance to skirt heightened rules enforcement at school dances. It ran in a part of the paper called The Leek, which contains admittedly fictitious articles in the tongue-and-cheek style of The Onion, a satirical national publication.

The school paper’s dance content prompted criticism from some community members and school officials.

“People are not happy, and I can understand why,” said Traverse City Area Public Schools Board of Education President Kelly Hall. “Most people realize it was an attempt at satire, but there are protocols that call for exercising discretion which I think were not followed in this case.”

Hall said Central Principal Rick Vandermolen will ensure Black & Gold staffers and their adult advisor use better judgement in the future.

“We obviously need to get some more adult control into that newspaper,” Hall said.

Missi Yeomans, a teacher at Central, serves as the student newspaper’s faculty advisor.

She did not respond to requests for comment.

Vandermolen plans to meet with Yeomans and students on the newspaper staff to discuss what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate content.

“I’m not interested in restricting our students in terms of expression, but expression has boundaries,” Vandermolen said.

He did not know what criteria Yeomans used to judge whether the dancing illustration graphic was appropriate.

“What I can say is, if I were the person making that decision, I believe I would have made a different decision,” Vandermolen said.”I have not had a chance to talk with Missi yet. I want to have an opportunity to hear her perspective before I cast judgement.”

Yeomans has been the Black & Gold advsior for about 10 years. The paper has won numerous awards from the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association during that time.

“I still really believe the Black & Gold is a quality student newspaper,” Vandermolen said, adding, “I just felt like this article crossed the line.”