Plainfield High School English teacher Michelle Burress’s students created a 24-page magazine called The Shakedown, which included a “Teen Dating Survival Guide.” According to a story published by the Indy Star, after 1,700 copies were distributed to staff and students on Oct. 23, parents started complaining.
Per the Indy Star, in a now-private Facebook post, one woman, the daughter of the school board president, wrote, “Parents need to be aware that Plainfield High School has published and distributed to students a magazine telling our children that casual sex and even group (sex) is OK.”
She also wrote, “This and more about what is acceptable when it comes to sex is what our children as young as 14 are being taught at Plainfield High School.”
The Indy Star provided a breakdown of the issue: an article on “dating codes” and “friends with benefits,” a quiz to determine whether a student is “clingy,” a survey about “players” and “cheaters,” a breakup guide, interviews with students in unfaithful relationships and a police officer on dating safety, date-night ideas, a profile on principal Mel Seifert and other teachers who met their spouses in high school, an essay by a student whose girlfriend slept over, and warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.
Sabrina Kapp, the director of communications at Plainfield, sent Yahoo Lifestyle a link to an official school statement, which read in part: “In Indiana, students are not afforded complete First Amendment protection. Unlike most states, Indiana considers high school students, when in classes supported by book rental fees and taxpayer dollars, to be outside the shield of Freedom of the Press.”
She wrote that the contents of the magazine had not been reviewed by the principal prior to publication but that the students have not been disciplined, the class has not been canceled, and Burress hasn’t been fired.
Still, Burress’s students defended their work and their beloved teacher. “We were so excited to put them out,” student Kayla Mays, co-editor of the The Shakedown, told the Indy Star. “We were so proud. It was completely unlike anything we’d done before.” She added, “We didn’t think there was anything to be ashamed of. It was completely unbiased, completely informative.”
And Mikayla Robinson, a student at Plainfield, wrote a plea on Facebook in support of the teacher, who was voted Teacher of the Year 2017: “She is amazing at what she does, balancing yearbook AND newsmagazine and she doesn’t deserve to be shut down.”
Burress was scheduled to attend an Oct. 30 school board disciplinary meeting, which was rescheduled for Nov. 9.
“Because I might be facing potential disciplinary action,” Burress wrote in an email to the Indy Star, “my attorney has advised that I not discuss the situation.”
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