Column leads to suspension, prior review





WISCONSIN — An editor’s column in February prompted administrators at D.C. Everest High School in Schofield to confiscate 1,400 copies of the student newspaper, suspend the student for sexual harassment and require prior review of all future issues of The Jet by the principal. One month later the principal censored the student paper again.

The copies of The Jet were destroyed after school officials objected to a column written by junior Chris Taber that described a romantic fantasy involving assistant principal Dawn Bratt.

Taber got the idea when he received a note from Bratt saying she had an idea for his column. In his columhe described his first reaction to the note as, “Oh my god, she wants me!” referring to the plots of movies where similar incidents had occurred.

Taber wrote in his column that when he went to the administrators’ office, “She sits at her desk and I sit on her lap, no, no just kidding. So I sit down and realize, ‘Hey maybe she does have an idea for my column!’ And she did.” He went on to tell about Bratt’s idea that rap music may go the way of disco. By the end of the column he concludes that his fantasy was misguided.

When he learned that Bratt was offended by the column, he wrote a letter of apology to her.

Taber says in the City Pages, a weekly Wausau Magazine, that he wrote the column to be “light and amusing.” The target of the humor, was supposed to be himself.

“I know Ms. Bratt,” he says in the City Pages. “We had a good rapport, one for each other. My column really was not intended to make her look like a fool, but me.”

Taber accepted his one day suspension but believes that prior review for the entire paper is going too far. Adviser Scott Blanchard, supports this opinion.

But Superintendent Roger Dodd disagrees.

“It was poor judgment on behalf of the staff adviser and the student,” said Dodd. “The paper will go on. It’s a curriculum class.”

Dodd also said that “the entire issue would have died down by now if weren’t for media groups prodding to start trouble.”

Blanchard said that high school principal Tom Johansen will approve all of the paper’s editorial content before it is published.

In April, Taber was censored again. The column questioned the existence of God. Johansen said he was concerned the article contained “sacrilegious content.” After the paper’s staff appealed the censorship, Johansen relented and allowed the column to run.

Having Johansen screen future issues of The Jet ends the long tradition of editorial freedom enjoyed by the paper, says Blanchard.


reports, Spring 1996