Copy of introduction letter sent to faculty


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Editor’s Note: Before releasing the issue of Verde Magazine featuring the rape package Paul Kandell, Verde Magazine’s adviser, sent the text below to the teachers and staff at Palo Alto High School. This content has been published per request of our readers. 

Dear colleagues,

This week, probably on Tuesday but perhaps on Wednesday, Verde will be releasing its latest edition, which includes a multi-story cover package on “rape culture.” The stories will be posted on The Paly Voice simultaneously, and magazines will arrive in home mailboxes a day later.

This is a difficult topic in many ways.  I am certain that the stories will be read carefully, appreciated by some and criticized by others. For certain, many will say this is an important story to tell, and students will be thinking about and talking about this story for a long time to come.

Whether you engage with students on this topic is up to you; regardless, there are some things you should know:

  1. Administrators had a heads-up on key information about this story weeks ago, although they will not have seen the actual story prior to publication. Paly Guidance counselors and ACS have been notified and are prepared in case of an increase in contacts with students.
  2. In producing the story, Verde worked with both the Student Press Law Center and the Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism to address legal and ethical concerns.
  3. No students are identified in the story; however It is possible that someone in your class will think he/she knows someone whose story is told in the magazine; that multiple students might even think they see themselves in the story.  (That is because these stories, unfortunately, are common in our community. The Verde staff had multiple cases with similar details to choose from.)  For this reason, you may want to be extra aware of how the dynamics of your classroom are working over the next few days and to be sensitive to the idea that a student may be struggling with issues well beyond the scope of your class or curriculum.
  4. At some point you will be asking, so I might as well just say it:  I am confident I do not have any outstanding mandatory reporter obligations related to the story.  If you engage in conversations with students on this topic, I would urge you to be mindful of the possibility of encountering your own.
  5. In almost all cases, ANY speculation about the identity of a source will be in error, and ALL speculation should be considered unwise — dangerous for the sources, for students who might be mistaken as those sources, and for the speculators (who, among other things, could become the target of a defamation lawsuit).  This would be a very useful message to communicate to students and to remind them that gossip is gossip, online or off, and they would be wise to avoid engaging in it. Besides, it is the issue at hand  that should be the focus, not individuals who represent that issue.
  6. You will want to be careful about asking students to read the main cover story in class or as homework. It comes with a warning that indicates that stories like this can be an emotional “trigger” for students who have experiences with the same subject.  (I think I’m going to give my Beginning Journalism students time to read the magazine — or anything else they want to — before discussing it.  I won’t require that anyone read it, and I’m going to give them a day’s warning about the topic before we address it.)
  7. The main story includes sidebars offering (a) what to do if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and (b) whom to contact if you need help.
  8. There will be multiple channels for the discussion of the stories to move online and through social media.  Verde staffers — and perhaps students from elsewhere in Paly journalism —  will be monitoring and attempting to positively direct as much of the discussion as they can.  I welcome you to join the effort. Students also are looking into the possibility of creating an on-campus forum — perhaps a panel discussion with outside experts — to address the issues raised by the story.
  9. In most cases, praise or concerns about the story are best addressed to the editors themselves (verde-eics-12-13@googlegroups.com) or to the online feedback form that will accompany the stories on the Voice (https://www.palyvoice.com). If you feel strongly that this issue is an important one to address in this community and want to talk further with me, I am looking for people just like you.  Sooner is better.  Please drop me a line so we can make a connection ASAP.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration in reading this.

Sincerely,

Paul Kandell, adviser
Verde magazine and The Paly Voice

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Need help?

If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, you don’t have to keep quiet.

Get help by calling RAINN’s  National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE,

 the local YWCA of Silicon Valley’s crisis hotline 650.493.7273 or

Adolescent Counseling Services at 650.883.4244.

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Verde Cover Package Stories

Introduction: “You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped”

“You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped” by Lisie Sabbag

Editorial: Practice more objective reporting

From a different perspective: a discussion with Paly guys by Lisie Sabbag

Breaking the silence: We need to change the way we think about rape by Will Queen

Taking it Seriously: Ever made a rape joke? This column is for you by Savannah Cordova

The state of rape today

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Check out the PDF of Verde Magazine on issuu

For secondary coverage of this magazine package, click here

For a copy of the letter sent to faculty before the release of this issue, click here