A national anti-bullying advocate is calling a controversial article published by a western Kentucky high school newspaper a “learning opportunity.”
The Paducah Tilghman Bell printed its August edition with an article titled “The Freshman Burn.” The piece, written by two students, illustrates language that Guess Anti-Bullying Founder Susan Guess says could be considered “tongue and cheek” humor but is not something she would advocate.
The article was sent to WKMS by a concerned PTHS parent. Excerpts from the article include “A new school year means new freshmen, which means new scum to scrape off the side of the hallways,” or “participate or be hated” and “you stink, we’re better.”
Guess says shaming the school and the students for the article is not the appropriate response.
“How do we take this experience and make it something positive and that’s what I want to see happen. I want them to recognize it, and I think they have because they have pulled it down,” said Guess.
Guess says the Foundation’s intention has never been to shame anyone publicly and she doesn’t want to do that now with the article, but she does expect things to be done differently.
“I think we could look at this in a positive way, and that’s how I’ve chosen to do this. One: we are able to have these conversations and challenge it. Two: I believe that we will see Paducah Tilghman use this as a learning experience,” said Guess.
The school’s decision to remove the article from online access is the first step to ending a tradition in ‘tongue and cheek’ acceptance of bullying behavior according to Guess.
The high school has not released a statement about the article, however, Paducah Independent Schools Public Information Officer Wayne Walden confirmed that is no longer available online.