Shawnee Mission East principal cracks down on underground newspaper The Eastonian

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- The principal of Shawnee Mission East High School is appealing to parents to help him stop the spread of an underground publication that he says is harming students.

"It is created by students," said John McKinney, the school principal. "We don’t feel it is a very large number of students. The vast majority of students have made it very clear to me that they want it to end. You have students coming to me saying, 'we want this to end. Please help us.'"

McKinney said recent editions of The Eastonian, which is distributed to students digitally outside of school, uses language that bullies or sexually harasses students.

The publication, which used to be a newspaper, has a long history at the school, and at one time focused on satire.

But now McKinney is asking for parents to take action to stop The Eastonian from continuing at the school. McKinney said after each edition, he's had students in tears over the derogatory and demeaning language that's used to describe them.

"They are pulling this out of the shadows and they are bringing this to the community," said Victoria Kanaley, parent of a Shawnee Mission East junior. "[My daughter] brought a digital copy to me that she had not forwarded. She shared it with me and erased it so there was an awareness of what's going on, how hateful this was."

McKinney said students who help create or distribute The Eastonian will be suspended for five days and banned from participating in any school events or activities. In addition, students associated with The Eastonian will not be allowed to walk across the stage for graduation.

Student authors are not identified in The Eastonian, and since it's not produced at school, some believe students have a free speech right to express themselves. But the school says when it causes a substantial disruption to classes, administrators can take action. McKinney cited several school codes the publication violates as grounds for disciplinary actions, noting Policy JGEC - Sexual Harassment, Policy JDDC - Intimidation/Bullying, Policy JHCA - Obscene or Libelous Student Publications. He urged any students who have information about the publication to come forward.

McKinney sent out an email to SME parents earlier in the week.

Parents & Guardians,

Good morning.  Below you will find an email that was sent to Shawnee Mission East students this morning.  Regrettably, the “underground” newspaper called the Eastonian marred what was otherwise a very enjoyable Lancer Day.  To their credit, several students came to me with names of those they had heard might be behind the incendiary, hate-filled document after it found its way to SME.  Every lead was and continues to be investigated.  In the end, however, it has proven incredibly difficult to track down the source of the digital file (the document is scanned and texted) and, like social media, it has proven equally difficult to prevent its spread.  I believe the only solution is the students of SME saying enough is enough— to let those who are behind its making know that hatred of any kind is not welcomed at SME and will not be tolerated.  That is what the email to students is trying to convey.  This is not to say that when those responsible are revealed there will not be school consequences.  As you can see below, students responsible for the creation, editing or distribution of the Eastonian will be suspended from school, barred from all extra-curricular activities and events, and denied the privilege of walking at graduation or participating in graduation activities.  Additional legal consequences may also be incurred.

I would like to ask for your help as well.  If you have any information about the Estonian or those who may be responsible for its presence at SME, please let me know.  For former Lancers who remember the Eastonian as a relatively harmless parody of life at SME, I can tell you today’s version is considerably different.  The current incarnation is an embarrassment to you, me, our school, our community and, most importantly, the students themselves, the vast majority of whom are trying very hard to do the right thing, make good choices and represent SME in a positive way.  It is a sad truth that many times the actions of a few overshadow and undermine the hard work of the many.  It is time for this ridiculous “tradition” to come to an end.

On October 4 at 8am, the SME PTSA will host a parent/principal coffee.  Among other topics, I will share what I know about the Eastonian—how it started, how it has changed and how you can help.  I will share some of the information contained therein (with names redacted of course).  I assure you that it will very quickly become clear why we must unify and take a stand against this hate-filled, unnecessary, waste of time.  The vast majority of our students want the Eastonian to go away, but they need our help and support.  If you have any information to share, please do not hesitate to do so.  You will remain anonymous and the source of any information shared will remain confidential.

Thank you for your support,

John McKinney