Former Lenoir City yearbook teacher speaks out about controversies

11:17 PM, Sep 6, 2012   |    comments
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"I'm the former adviser to the yearbook and newspaper at Lenoir City High School," James Yoakley presented himself at the Knoxville Writers' Guild meeting Thursday night.

This time last year, the 13-year member of the Lenoir City School system never thought he would leave his position.    

"I mean, the idea is student press rights and what students face and those issues," he said, talking about why he was at the meeting.

Last year, a former student wrote an article about being an Atheist in the school's newspaper. Yoakley was the newspaper and yearbook adviser who approved the article.

The board would not allow the story to be published in the school's newspaper.

Later in the year, another student wrote about being gay in the high school yearbook. Yoakley also allowed that writing to be published.

Both of those issues led to calls for Yoakley's dismissal, but Yoakley said he did nothing wrong.

"With our newspaper and our yearbook -- it's student media. It's student edited. Students decide the content; students decide how they're going to approach stories and with what they're going to write."

He says newspapers and yearbooks are open forums for teenagers, saying some kids may not know how to express themselves.

"I think some of them felt a little more empowered," he added. "I know the young lady that wrote the article is going to school. She actually sent me a message this morning saying she's sorry she never truly thanked me for everything I did for her," Yoakley said.

10News was unable to reach Lenoir City School administrators about this story. However, superintendent Wayne Miller said last month he is proud of how school officials handled those situations.

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