Janesville22.1°

Parker student editors apologize for satire effort

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
May 1, 2010
— Members of the Parker High School student newspaper staff went room-to-room Friday to apologize for publishing side-by-side photos of President Obama and Buckwheat, a character from the old “Our Gang” series.

Some view Buckwheat as an offensive stereotype. Above the photos on Page 4 was the headline: “Political Look Alikes.”


Papers were being distributed to students in their advisory classes Thursday when Principal Steve Schroeder ordered all copies collected.


Schroeder and senior district administrators said they do not believe The Odin staff had any malicious, racist intent.


Students on the staff of The Odin intended to make fun of a Florida congressional candidate, Carey Portier, who was criticizing the president and the health care reform bill recently when he said: “Listen up, Buckwheat—this is not how it is done.”


A satirical caption based on Portier’s words was inadvertently left out of The Odin, school officials said.


The mistake came in The Odin’s satire issue. Students were trying to show how Portier’s comments were harmful and racist, according to a district statement.


With or without the caption, the attempt at satire was not appropriate, officials said Friday.


The Odin prints 1,500 copies, Schroeder said. Officials believe a small number of copies of the paper were not turned in.


District personnel director Steve Sperry said Schroeder had the authority to rescind the issue “to preserve order and safety in our schools. I think this had the potential to anger some students.”


Officials said they had not heard of any angry outbursts from students, but “the potential was there for some very angry, hurt feelings,” Superintendent Karen Schulte said.


Tim Hall, Odin adviser and an English teacher at Parker, took responsibility for the mistake, officials said.


Schroeder said, however, that he takes responsibility. Administrators have not reviewed The Odin regularly in the past, but they will in the future, Schroeder said.


Schroeder brought in district staff to address the issue Thursday, including youth advocates who work with students of color. Those officials met with The Odin staff, and then members of the BRO and SES programs met with The Odin staff.


BRO is Brothers Reaching Out, and SES is Sisters Empowering Sisters.


They are organizations that work to boost the academic performance and behavior of mostly black students.


District spokeswoman Sheryl Miller said she was impressed with The Odin staff’s acceptance of the mistake and willingness to apologize and likewise with the black students’ willingness to accept the apology.


None of The Odin staffers is black, Schroeder said.


The Odin staffers were the ones who suggested making personal apologies on Friday, Miller said. The paper also plans to run a written apology in its next issue.


Schroeder met with Parker staff Thursday after school. He said teachers have ideas for making the incident a learning experience.


Schroeder addressed students Friday morning via closed-circuit TV to explain what happened.



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