Teacher sues administrators over bestiality story

WASHINGTON — A high school teacher who was removed from her position as adviser to the student newspaper last May, has filed suit against the Stanwood School District, the superintendent and the school principal.

Val Schroeder was removed from her duties teaching journalism and yearbook and from her position as adviser to the student newspaper at the beginning of the 1996-97 school year, according to Fern Valentine of the Washington Journalism Education Association.

Schroeder claims in her suit that she lost her position as adviser to the Spartan Spectrum because of how administrators treated her after one of her students wrote a story in the paper about bestiality. The suit claims that Schroeder was removed from her position and reassigned in retaliation for allowing the article to be published.

The school district’s superintendent, Raymond Reid, filed a written complaint with the state superintendent of public instruction in early 1996, reporting “certain misconducts.” He claims that Schroeder allowed the publication of an article whose subject matter was “inappropriate for high school-aged students.” The letter also directed the superintendent’s attention to school guidelines defining obscene material. The letter has not yet been addressed by the state superintendent, said Valentine.

Although he would not comment on the specifics of Schroeder’s suit, Stanwood principal Gary Vegar said the case had “no merit.” He would not say whether the material in question was obscene, only that it was “inappropriate for high school-aged students.” “The real issue,” he said, “is whether or not students should be given total control over issues of taste.”

Valentine disagreed.

“They treated her completely unfairly” she said. Valentine added that when the superintendent called the story obscene, “they only quoted the part [in the school policy] about obscenity, and this clearly wasn’t obscene. But [administrators] ignored the part of the guidelines that say no prior restraint is allowed and that a teacher can’t be liable for what students write.”

reports, Winter 1996-97