GW student calls for principal's resignation
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A George Washington High School senior filed for an injunction Monday after her principal threatened to go to her future college with complaints about her behavior following a contentious assembly last week.
That student, 17-year-old Katelyn Campbell, is also calling for the principal, George Aulenbacher, to resign and to publicly apologize to the school and the community.
Campbell called the assembly, featuring national abstinence speaker Pam Stenzel, an exercise in "slut-shaming," saying she and other girls at the school were offended by her abrasive criticism of teenage girls who choose to have sex.
"By this token," Campbell said. "George Aulenbacher knowingly abused the student population of G Washington High School."
Campbell went to the media after the assembly with her complaints, and GW students organized a grassroots campaign: students formed a Facebook group called "The Average Teenager is NOT A SLUT" to post news about the campaign (it had around 100 likes by Monday evening).
One student posted an audio recording of Stenzel's presentation online (the video has since been removed.)
After she spoke out about the assembly, Campbell says Aulenbacher called her into his office and threatened to call Wellesley College -- where Campbell has been accepted for attendance next year.
According to the court filing, Aulenbacher called Campbell to his office and asked Campbell, "How would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are?"
Cambell said she got the sense that the threats were serious.
The injunction, filed Monday in Kanawha County Circuit Court, seeks to prevent Aulenbacher from following through with those threats, saying that such threats were a violation of Campbell's right to free speech.
Stenzel's visit to GW was paid for by "Believe in West Virginia," a religious group.
The group booked Stenzel for an engagement at St. Timothy Lutheran Church -- she spoke there last Monday, the evening before she went to GW and Riverside high schools -- and then approached the schools with an offer to bring Stenzel there, too, and to foot the bill.
Aulenbacher told the Daily Mail last week he instructed Stenzel to keep religion out of her talk at GW; he didn't return calls requesting comment Monday.
On the day before the assembly, teachers found a flyer in their mailboxes planning for an assembly that hadn't been announced before, the lawsuit says, describing Stenzel as someone who "tackles the tough issues of sex with candor, insight, and humour while challenging young people to embrace God's plan for sexual purity."
In a recording of Stenzel's speech taken by a student, she can be heard railing against teens who decide to have sex -- at one point she says that "if you are on birth control, your mother probably hates you," and giving a "small word of warning for our ninth-grade girls who will date anything that walks."
During a typical assembly, students are allowed to stay in the classroom, as long as a teacher is present, she said. But Tuesday, no one was instructed to stay away from the gym, Campbell said, "thus giving the impression the assembly is mandatory."
A few students tried to leave, but were turned back at the doors and made to stay.
She dedicates a large portion of the talk to outlining the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, and includes glowing praise for mothers who decide to carry their babies to term and then give them up for adoption, while criticizing abortion.
State code requires sex education curriculum that emphasizes abstinence but includes information on birth control. GW and Kanawha County Schools administrators have said that Stenzel's presentation was meant to work in tandem with the school's sex education efforts on a larger scale, but critics say it was still improper.
GW students plan to attend the Kanawha County School Board meeting Thursday to complain about the assembly.
Board President Pete Thaw said Monday that he has nearly always been happy to defer to a principal's judgment on what goes on in his or her school -- but this incident has forced him to reconsider.
"I think perhaps that if we're going to have outside speakers come in here on the subjects of sex, religion and politics, the principals ought to touch and explain what they're going to do," he said. "Because obviously we're getting some pretty marginal speakers in here."
Thaw hadn't heard a recording of Stenzel's speech, but was concerned by what he'd heard about it.
"We owe parents something," he said. "We have to be responsible for what their children hear in school."
West Virginia has the 10th highest teen birth rate in the country.
In 2011, that rate was 46.3 births per every 1,000 teens. According to West Virginia Kids Count, a child advocacy group, that means that one in every 22 teens in the state will have a baby.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4886.