High school teacher facing backlash for student-published dating guide

A high school teacher in Indiana says she may face possible disciplinary action after her students published a magazine on dating and relationships, which covered topics such as friends with benefits, polyamory and break-up advice.

Michelle Burress, an English teacher and media advisor at Plainfield High School, is facing criticism from the school board after her publishing class distributed the first issue of their student-run magazine, The Shakedown.

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According to the IndyStar, the “Dating Survival Guide” included polls about the prevalence of sexting, cheap date ideas and cheesy pick-up lines, along with more serious information, like an interview with a police officer on dating violence and stories of how teachers met their spouses.

Around 1,700 copies were distributed to staff and students on Oct. 23, but the publication began receiving criticism within hours, IndyStar reports.

"Parents need to be aware that Plainfield High School has published and distributed to students a magazine telling our children that casual sex and even group (sex) is OK," Bret Allen wrote on Facebook in what is now a private post. Allen is the daughter of school board president Michael Allen.

But despite initial feedback, the students stand behind their work, saying they’re proud of the publication they produced. “We were so excited to put them out,” student Kayla Mays, co-editor of the The Shakedown, told the Indy Star. “We were so proud. It was completely unlike anything we’d done before. We didn’t think there was anything to be ashamed of. It was completely unbiased, completely informative.”

The school released an official statement on the matter, acknowledging that the publication “has generated strong opinions from those opposed to the content, as well as strong supporters of both the content and the First Amendment.”

The school also said that, while in year’s past the principal typically would review the magazine before it went to print, not every article from this new issue was shared prior to publication and distribution.

They also recognize that the content isn’t necessarily appropriate for all ages. “The focus of ‘The Shakedown’ was a topic that is relevant to high school students, although as with anything, there are many opinions about what is appropriate and what is not. Likewise, what is appropriate for a 14-year old might be very different for an 18-year old,” the statement said.

The school board reportedly scheduled a disciplinary meeting with Burress on Monday, but Director of Communications Sabrina Kapp on Friday said the meeting was cancelled, IndyStarr reports. The board's next regular meeting is Nov. 9.

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Buress told IndyStar in an email, "Because I might be facing potential disciplinary action, my attorney has advised that I not discuss the situation."

However the statement from Plainfield High School said “the students have not been punished, and the publications class is not being eliminated. There was no censorship. The teacher has not been terminated.”