Chattooga High "Censorship:" Photos Too Hot For Yearbook?
By David Carroll
SUMMERVILLE, GA (WRCB) - Some Chattooga (GA) High School students paid $50 in advance for their 2009 yearbook, but when they picked it up last week, four pages were cut out, literally.
They were told the pictures were inappropriate. We wondered, how bad could they possibly be? What type of photos were so scandalous, they had to be removed from an already-printed school yearbook?
Click the video link to the left to see what we found.
The 2009 yearbook was delivered to students, two months late with pages 11-14 clipped out. The books arrived at Chattooga High in early September, but are just now going out to those students who had purchased them last year. On page 10, you see part of a girl's head, next to an unrelated page 15. What happened to the pages in between?
2009 grad Aaron Wentz said, "I was real upset, looks like it was done with a box cutter, you can't miss it. It's been mutilated. I paid for it in advance, it's my property and the school has taken it upon themselves to rip it up."
The yearbook was dedicated to former Chattooga teacher Dr. Alan Perry, who supervised the yearbook for the past 27 years. After he retired in May, a new principal and yearbook advisor didn't like what they saw: photos of shirtless boys playing basketball. So before distributing to students, they began the two-month process of cutting pages 11-14 out of every yearbook.
Dr. Perry, who was able to obtain an original, uncut version of the yearbook, posted the pages on his Facebook site. He said, "I'm very disappointed with the decision to mutilate a wonderful yearbook--a decision that was completely unnecessary. There was absolutely nothing inappropriate about the pages that were cut from the book; I am offended by the lack of regard shown for the students pictured on those pages, the students who worked on the yearbook staff last year, and most of all, the students who purchased the yearbook."
2009 graduate Marcus Lee said, "They have stolen our memories. I have several friends on those pages, and they deserve to be in the yearbook. These pictures are not appropriate. They are good guys, just playing ball without their shirts on, and there are other pictures in this yearbook of guys without shirts. You show these pictures to anyone, they wouldn't see anything offensive."
New principal Jimmy Lenderman, who took over the school in July, after the yearbook went to press, issued this statement to Eyewitness News:
"Inadvertently, the school administration did not approve the 2008 -2009 yearbook in its entirety; there were several photographs that did not reflect an appropriate image of the school or our community. The pages which contained the photos were removed." He declined further comment.
Mr. Lenderman confirmed that he has offered to refund the full purchase price to anyone who returns the yearbook, but parent Beth Wentz says, "No deal. The right thing to do would be to give a new book with all the pages in it. These pictures are no worse than anything I've seen in other yearbooks, ever since I was in school 30 years ago."
We spoke with Chattooga Co. Superintendent Dr. Dwight Pullen, and he says he supports the principal's decision. "Mr. Lenderman is trying to improve the image of the school, and the academic programs of the school. He has it headed in the right direction."
But Mrs. Wentz disagrees. "They had no business cutting up everybody's yearbook over some pictures of boys without shirts. These students will keep these books the rest of their lives, and they shouldn't have to pay for, and keep a yearbook that has been cut up and mutilated, losing pictures of their friends and school activities. A young person only gets one senior yearbook, and this school has ruined it for them."
By David Carroll