Just about everyone assumed that Lake Highlands High School’s annual student publication, The Pub, was an underground disclosure sponsored entirely by students, says parent Paula Streiff.
After all, students and parents didn’t think RISD would condone a 45-page stapled booklet that included rude personal comments about students, an ode to the confederate flag, numerous references to sexual acts, drugs and alcohol, and a parent sponsor page that used parents’ names to vertically spell out a long-lettered sexually transmitted disease.
After a little sleuthing, however, Streiff found out the publication is overseen by two faculty members and is sponsored by the high school.
“This was a real wake-up call for me,” Streiff says.
Apparently, many other people heard the wake-up call, because wholesale changes are in store for the next Pub, says RISD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kirk London.
“We’re going to take every step to make sure something like that won’t come out again.”
Principal Ron Mathews also says he is ready to change the 33-year-old publication.
Mathews plans to work with faculty sponsors Leorah Mims and Bob Williams and participating students to review RISD’s policies regarding student publications.
“We have not strictly enforced that policy in the past,” says Mathews, who is in his sixth year as LHHS principal.
Mathews says The Pub is “no better or worse than it was 10 years ago.”
“In the ’60s, the society was tamer, and so was The Pub. The society has changed and so did The Pub,” Mathews says.
Williams, an English teacher who has been a Pub faculty sponsor for the past two years, says he isn’t happy with the finished product and has spoken out in the past about some of the profanities. Williams would not say to whom his comments were directed.
“Many of the items that the kids write are incognito,” Williams says.
Williams says the faculty didn’t understand what was being written because the students sometimes mixed fictitious names and characters in with the names of actual students, parents and faculty.
“When these types of things show up, it’s very discouraging. We really try to edit appropriately,” Williams says.
Mathews says the school board’s policy is clear-cut, and there will be no room to debate the changes that will be made this spring.
Each annual issue takes about six weeks of production and is written by 35 students selected and overseen by the two faculty sponsors.
A letter is usually sent to senior parents requesting donations for printing of The Pub, and advertising is sold to neighborhood merchants, Streiff says.
The publication is sold to students for $5 a copy.
The Pub was spotlighted after Streiff, who works as an adviser for the Student Media Co. at SMU, wrote a letter to RISD Superintendent Carolyn Bukhair demanding changes to the school-sponsored publication.
“The Pub is just an example of how effectively these students have disgraced other students,” Streiff says.
The school board has taken notice, and Williams was happy to say: “The Pub as we know it will die.”