Teacher Apologizes For Drug, Alcohol References In Yearbook

Conifer High English Teacher Calls Pages 'Inappropriate'

The teacher who oversaw the production of a high school yearbook that depicted drug and alcohol use issued an apology Monday, saying it was "completely inappropriate."

Conifer High School English teacher Amy McTague's apology was issued by the school district in response to a letter sent to them and the media that complained about the pages in the yearbook.

Parent Karen Marshall said in her Friday letter, "I am absolutely outraged at what has been printed in our student's 2007 yearbooks released a few days ago."

Her letter continued: "On p.13, page title is 'Drug Addictions': there are pictures of students smoking pot, using bong paraphernalia, pictures of alcohol and prescription drugs with associated stories of each. Each caption is written in 6 pt. font so anyone over 40 would have to get their magnifying glass to read, which I feel was strategic on their part so parents would miss it, but its there all the same 'I smoke pot because it relaxes me, helps me deal with situations...there's nothing wrong with it.' says a student."

"p.33, there are pictures of police officers with stories of 'cops busting our parties' and 'law enforcement is a necessary evil' depicting law enforcement as an annoyance only to be disregarded if you don't get caught. I want our police officers to be respected for the heroes they are and this disgraces them and sends the wrong message.

"p.71 titled 'Regrets and Mistakes', shows a picture of three female students holding an MIP (Minors in Possession) certificate, one girl smirking in this picture, with the caption "...my regret was telling the cop the truth when they busted our party."

McTague responded in a letter dated Sunday, "It wasn't my intent or my students' intent to portray such a negative tone in their attempt to cover all aspects of a student's life and some of the very difficult choices they face ... I in no way condone or have ever condoned underage drinking or drug use of any kind and would like to make a positive impact on these issues with our students." Click here to read the full text of McTague's letter.

The school district also issued a statement about the controversy:

"The school district certainly understands why parents are upset about this portion of the yearbook. Jeffco Public SchoolsÂ’ never condones the use of illegal drugs by students. The district will investigate all sides of this controversy and will take the appropriate action if necessary. "

"You cannot allow any kind of expression that promotes an illegal activity," said Conifer High principal Pat Termin. "I really do believe that we have crossed the line."

One yearbook page includes a photo of students smoking marijuana from pipes and bongs. The caption reads, "There are things that are legalized, like alcohol, which effect you much worse than pot."

Another page glorifies underage drinking, according to parents. One photo shows a student being arrested with the caption saying, "I wish I hadn't told the cops."

The school is offering refunds to any student who wants to return the yearbook. Stickers with rewritten captions will be issued to students who wish to keep their yearbooks. The stickers can be placed under the pictures to cover up the original captions.

Marshall's letter to school administrators questioned why positive aspects of the school were "buried" in the yearbook.

"The school band, who was ranked 3rd in the state, was well hidden in the very back of the year book," she wrote. "Rather than promoting positive and productive student life, they have chosen to accentuate the negative. To look at it, you would think the CHS is riddled with pot smoking criminals and its a disgrace and disservice to our children, our families, and our communities who work to uphold good moral standards and drug free lives."

Less than two weeks ago Conifer High sophomores Justin Dorrance, 16, of Evergreen, and Clyde Gallegos, 16, of Pine, were killed when the Jeep Grand Cherokee that Dorrance was driving rolled over into Elk Creek. The Colorado State Patrol said that drugs were suspected as a contributing factor in the accident.

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