Administrators reprimand adviser for column

MICHIGAN -- A high school newspaper adviser was reprimanded after a student's column criticizing the observance of Black History Month sparked debate among local students and parents.

The trouble started in March after an article critical of Black History Month was published in the February edition of Plymouth Salem High School's P-CEP Perspective. The article, written by senior Chris MacKinder, questioned the need to celebrate Black History Month, claiming that by celebrating the month "race once again becomes a popular topic of discussion." He added that celebrating Black History Month was unfair because other groups and races were not celebrated.

MacKinder's column caused an uproar, mainly in the African-American community, which requested a meeting with school administrators and demanded that MacKinder be expelled and newspaper adviser Mary Lou Nagy be fired.

Instead, administrators reprimanded Nagy by relieving her of her three classes and placing her in an administrative position for eight days. In addition, Nagy had to attend a diversity training workshop.

"The writer didn't do anything wrong," Nagy said. "I didn't do anything wrong in letting the article be published, but there was such an outcry from the community that I think [administrators] just buckled to the pressure."

In spite of the reprimand, Nagy was allowed to continue working with the newspaper staff to put out a special issue focusing solely on diversity.

Nagy said that prior to the article being published, MacKinder discussed the column with her, at which time she told him to do more research on the topic.

"I'm an adviser, not a censor," Nagy said. "I don't want to be too careful because I don't want to start self-censoring and not letting things get out there that need to be out there."

Following the incident, Nagy and MacKinder each issued an apology to the community.

"[Chris] apologized for causing any pain or for anybody misunderstanding, and I apologized because my intentions were never to create an atmosphere of confusion or fear," Nagy said. "But he never apologized for writing it, and I never apologized for printing it."

Judy Evola, the Plymouth-Canton School District's community relationship officer, did not return calls made to her office by the Report.

As a result of the incident, teachers in the Plymouth-Canton School District will be required to attend diversity-training workshops next year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

reports, Spring 2001