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12-03-02: Parkway OKs book refunds
The Daily Standard
    ROCKFORD - Parkway Local Schools officials have finally admitted the district's 2001-2002 yearbook might not be suitable for all students and have agreed to provide refunds to anyone who wants one.
    Controversy over the hardcover yearbook began Nov. 18 when a district resident brought his concerns to the school board. Resident Mitch Flaugher detailed at least 10 instances where text or photos in the book could be considered sexually suggestive. A review of the yearbook by The Daily Standard turned up many more similar instances.
    "The Parkway Local Schools board of education, administration and yearbook adviser deeply regret that some purchasers of the ... yearbook were offended by part of its content," a statement issued by the school district this morning says. "Some of the pictures and captions may be interpreted as suggestive and containing innuendo."
    The district is offering refunds of the $35 purchase price to anyone who wants their money back. Refunds were something that Flaugher had demanded from school officials.
    The statement from the school also offers "sincerest apologies to anyone so affected."
    Superintendent Doug Karst this morning said an independent committee seated to look at the yearbook issue has completed its work. The group has made several recommendations regarding future review of the yearbook, but Karst said he did not wish to make those findings public until he has a chance to talk with Flaugher.
    Karst said he has reviewed the yearbook on his own and determined that "there were probably some things in there inappropriate for elementary students."
    Karst said, however, that he does not believe any of the suggestive statements or innuendo were intended as direct attacks on any students.
    "I don't think any of it was intentional or malicious," he said.
    Yearbook adviser Ed Kuhn was not "formally" reprimanded or disciplined, Karst said. Kuhn will be responsible for implementing the committee's recommendations.
    Flaugher also had urged the district to order republication of a "clean" yearbook, but Karst said this morning that doing so would be cost-prohibitive. Printing a new edition would cost about $13,000, he said, essentially doubling the production costs of the yearbooks, which are paid through direct fees and through advertisements placed on its pages.
    Karst said he has fielded numerous complaints about the yearbook, including several letters from local church groups.
    Parkway is not the first district to come under public scrutiny over yearbook content. 
    In the mid-1990s, about 800 copies of the Agua Fria High School (Avondale, Ariz.), were edited with a black marker to censor material school officials deemed unfit. Among the offending statements in that annual were photo captions that said "I love you, Mark," and "God made me perfect."
    A similar situation played out a few years ago at St. Paul's, a Catholic High School in Carleton, Calif. Officials there also used a black marker to censor 750 copies of the book due to one single sexually suggestive statement.
    The issue even has spilled onto the college campus a number of times in the last decade. Students at Kentucky State University in the mid-1990s had their yearbooks confiscated by university officials because the cover was not done in the school's colors and because it had a "vague theme and title."
    Students and university administrators battled over the issue in federal court for years. The students finally were given their books in 2001 after a court decision ruled in their favor


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