Comments in school paper spur controversy

SPOKANE - Titan Talk has been a long-running tradition in the student newspaper, The Mercury, at University High School.

It’s a simple concept – reporters ask several people one question and print their responses.

Many newspapers run this kind of column, and it’s often one of the most commented-on pieces in the paper because the most innocent of questions can end up receiving complaints based on the answers people give.

That was the problem this week at University High School. The question was easy enough – “If you could be famous for anything, what would you be famous for?”

Some of the answers were funny. “Creating a mix breed between a giraffe, alligator and monkey.” “Fastest land speed on a unicycle.” “Making the world’s largest pizza.” “First person to walk on Pluto.”

But school officials and parents didn’t think there was anything funny about some other answers. “Dropping a nuke on the Middle East.” “Being JFK’s assassin.” “Leader of the KKK.” “Killing the president with a trident.”

The answers were so controversial that school officials collected and destroyed almost every copy of the April 9 edition of the school newspaper.

They are now also investigating whether any of the students were serious about the comments they had made.

Principal Daryl Hart first became aware of the problem on Tuesday.

“I was horrified,” he said.

The two student editors, seniors Danny Bush and Tyler Pursch, said most of the students in the school realize the answers were meant to be jokes.

“They were absolutely joking,” Bush said. “It was for the shock value.”

Hart said that no decision has been made about any disciplinary action for anyone involved in this case, but he agrees with Bush about the experience for the newspaper staff.

“This is a teachable moment,” Hart said.