Can I quote you on that?: School administrators back students during yearbook controversy

Chronicle Yearbook

By TAYLOR HARTZ
STAFF WRITER

For decades, high school seniors have been tasked with summarizing their four-year experience in just two short lines, known as the senior quote.

When it comes time for the annual submissions, most go the sentimental route, recalling fond memories on the field or on stage, others opt for meaningful song lyrics, and many more code their quotes in a jumble of inside jokes between friends.

The age-old ritual sparked controversy at Southington High School earlier this month, when two students saw an opportunity to make a public announcement.

This year, two seniors chose to use their allotted characters to do something they hadn’t done in their high school days—come out of the closet.

After choosing their senior yearbook as their medium to make an announcement about their sexual orientation, one student was nearly denied the chance.

While students are discouraged from submitting quotes with crude language or inappropriate content, the student’s statement, “It’s surprising that after four years you guys still think I’m straight,” contained neither.

Despite that fact, the student was originally told by an undisclosed member of the SHS staff that his quote would not be used.

“The individual making the interpretation did not bring that to the administration and had no business making that call,” said Superintendent of Southington Public Schools Timothy Connellan.

The small slip of paper submitted for the yearbook started an uproar amongst students, and on community forums such as “Southington Talks” – a Facebook group for Southington residents.

A post on the page by SHS senior Morgan Shubert rallied more than 200 likes and comments in just 24 hours, with dozens of students, parents, and community members expressing disappointment in the school’s decision.

“It is everyone’s right to express who they are, and if the school has a problem with him doing that in a non-confrontational way, it is just wrong,” said Shubert.

The administration at Southington High School agreed.

“We support our students, and we will always make sure that their first amendment rights are protected,” said Connellan.

Within a week of the incident, the student spoke with Principal Brian Stranieri, who assured him that his quote would be published.

Connellan, who reviewed the quote with Stranieri, said that once the issue was brought to the administration, it was handled exactly how it should have been.

“There was nothing inappropriate about that senior quote,” said Connellan.

“Mr. Stranieri was totally supportive of me in our meeting this afternoon,” said the student in an online post on Jan. 7.

The student stated in his post that neither the administration nor the guidance department at the high school were involved in the initial denial of publication.

The senior wrote that the administration “Worked as quickly as they could to properly resolve the issue and were behind me 100 percent with my choice to have the quote printed.”

The senior said that the problem was resolved when school officials decided to comply with his request to publish the quote.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Hartz, email her at THartz@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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