Advisor accepts Playboy award
CALIFORNIA — A journalism teacher accepted the Playboy Foundation’s Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in November despite disapproval from her school district.
Accepting the award is inappropriate because of Playboy’s “adult” products, argue San Francisco Unified School District’s associate superintendents Gwen Chan and John Quin.
The winner thinks differently.
“I see it as an award for the First Amendment,” said Katherine Swan, former newspaper adviser at Mission High School’s West Wing. “It’s not being given for doing the things that Playboy does.”
In a letter to Cleo F. Wilson, the Playboy Foundation’s executive director, Chan and Quin stated, “We believe that to accept an award, no matter how well-intentioned, from a foundation which represents an adult magazine and adult products that are 1) inappropriate for minors, and 2) illegal to sell to minors, would represent a tacit endorsement for those products and therefore contrary to the mission of our school.”
Responding, Wilson explained that the Foundation was impressed by West Wing’s staff, but the award, to honor individuals who champion First Amendment freedoms, is meant solely for Swan.
The plaque honors Swan saying, “in the face of daunting odds – including opposition from the school administration – [she] understood and enshrined the value of the First Amendment and the pursuit of journalistic truth in her students.”
West Wing won the Edmund J. Sullivan award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers Association last year and was known for investigative reporting on issues such as school administrator replacements and perks for student athletes.
Swan said that West Wing had overcome several censorship attempts by Mission’s principal, Ted Alfaro, who informed her at their first meeting that he expected to read the paper prior to its distribution.
Alfaro objected to Swan’s wish to bring the students to the award ceremony and said the school would not finance the trip.
“It1s a sexist magazine,” said Alfaro.
“The students are upset because they worked hard and did a great job, but they don’t see the whole side. If they were 18 and in college it might be different.”
Swan currently teaches journalism at Lowell High School, another San Francisco area school.
She plans to use the $5,000 award for student scholarships.
reports, Winter 1997-98