Shorewood High School, where I spent four relatively happy years, is in a bit of hot water about a “profane” word in the annual literary magazine, Imprints — a magazine to which I faithfully contributed, I think, three out of my four years at Shorewood.
A blank space appearing on page 50 of Shorewood High’s annual literary magazine, Imprints, was once filled with a poem about a teenager’s first sexual experience.
The 13-line verse was abruptly pulled from this year’s magazine after parental complaints about a profane word in its title.
The fallout prompted school and district officials to seize, shred and reprint the issue. They also reassigned the magazine’s faculty adviser, a move the teacher is now fighting.
The poem’s author, Zoya Raskina, 17, said her verse was about the pressure teenagers face to have sex and the disillusionment that can follow. She said she didn’t expect the reaction, which prompted district administrators to ask Steve Kelly, an English teacher with the district for 35 years, to step down as magazine adviser.
The faculty advisor, Mr. Kelly, is one of Shorewood’s most well-known and well-liked teachers. I don’t remember a single student who ever had a complaint about him. I never had him for a teacher, but I remember hearing story after story from otherwise disinterested students about what they had discussed in Mr. Kelly’s class that day. The stories were so impressive that, after a year of college, I went back to Shorewood with a friend of mine (a former student of Mr. Kelly) and sat in on his class. The first thing you notice about Mr. Kelly’s room are the walls — they’re covered in student-painted murals, mostly (if I remember right) depicting scenes from the various novels that his students studied. He’s amazing; he’s one of the reasons that Imprints survives. And he’s certainly the reason why so many students want to be part of the magazine.
Shoreline (the school district where Shorewood is located) also tends to be a relatively liberal place, like most of Seattle. We had good, comprehensive (but abstinence-based) sex education. We read Huck Finn and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and other commonly banned books. My senior year, the fall play featured a “coming out” scene — and I was the ####### doing the coming out.
So when my mom told me about this story, I was obviously disappointed. Pulling Mr. Kelly from his position is a huge mistake, and one that I hope they rectify. It’s a literary magazine, for goodness sakes — sometimes, literature contains bad words.
And I can’t help but remember that when I was a junior in high school, there was a short story in Imprints that used the word “#####” at least a dozen times — I think “####” and “####” were in there, too. But that story was written by a senior boy — this poem was by a girl, about her first sexual experience. Do I smell a double standard?
So today, I’m depressed about the state of things in Shoreline, Washington. And I can’t help but see this event as representative of the conservative grip that seems to be tightening all around the country.