Golfing for Columbine?

, Vani Murthy, Leave a comment

When a golf hat worn by an Ohio high school senior ended up getting him expelled, Michael Moore did not rush to his side.

Mark Guidetti, a senior at Nordonia High School in Nordonia, Ohio, earned such respect and trust from the English department which oversaw the school newspaper he wrote for that he eventually became a senior writer. The trust he gained was meaningful enough to permit him to publish an article without a teacher’s approval.

Guidetti would often reshape his editorials in order not only to exercise his creativity, but to consistently engage his readers’ interest as well. He wrote his editorials in a variety of ways, and in particular as mock horoscopes, which had become increasingly popular with the student body. In these monthly “Horoscopes,” Guidetti would convey his opinion while discussing recent matters that had occurred throughout the school.

In one such edition, Guidetti discussed an event that had happened to him earlier that week. Guidetti was on his high school golf team, and in the traditional way of showing team support, he and the rest of his team had agreed to wear golf hats to school that day. Despite the usual and cheering show of encouragement from their teachers and peers on these days, there was one teacher in particular who harshly criticized Guidetti for his decision. In addition to the numerous and disparaging comments he made to Guidetti, this particular teacher mockingly threatened him with a detention, or some other type of punishment. As a result, Guidetti decided to write about the teacher’s unexpectedly harsh reaction in his upcoming editorial, which was in the form of one of his “horoscopes.”

Guidetti made light of the situation. “It’s as if I blew up the Balkan Peninsula,” he wrote. The general reaction garnered by this editorial was no different from the response to his many previous pieces, as they were often found thought-provoking and sarcastically humorous.

This sentiment was clearly not shared by the school’s administrators and teachers, perhaps due in part to the fact that Guidetti’s article was ironically published and printed the very day after the infamous Columbine shootings. Actually, he wrote this piece exactly one month before the tragic incident occurred. The school strongly reacted to the article and without any forewarning called this issue to his attention during an impromptu meeting with several faculty members and Guidetti himself.

Before being given a chance to defend or even explain himself, Guidetti was ordered to personally collect every copy of the recently published newspaper he could find and hand them all over to school authorities. Despite being shocked at the reaction, he obliged as he thought that the personally-collected articles would appease the raw nerves of the faculty, and the matter would then be put to rest.

Instead Guidetti was arrested the next day during class in the presence of nearly the entire school. His arrest was quickly followed by an immediate expulsion without any further explanation. Not surprisingly, he was completely taken aback by the severe reaction that had been elicited by his editorial, which had been, at worst, satirical.

Guidetti, with the support of his parents and the majority of the student body, fought his expulsion and arrest, along with the violation that they had charged him with. The Guidetti family filed a lawsuit, which was eventually settled out of court, but not before the school superintendent and principal resigned, along with the teacher who had supervised the newspaper and been a direct advisor to Guidetti.

Though the article may have seemed superficially sarcastic at first glance, there was a wealth of meaning and intention that lay underneath it. Guidetti explained that his usage of several analogies was intentional for he “tried not to make the statements overtly obvious, as I did feel some sense of responsibility for what I was placing in the paper.”

Such editorials, according to Guidetti, were written in order to urge people to think outside of the realm that many never venture to step out of. Hence, issues such as “tanning, people who smoke, drug usage, etc.” were among the subjects tackled throughout his writing. Furthermore, there were other topics that were delved into throughout not only this article but several others, such as those concerning the school administration, which according to Guidetti “would often get rejected and banned from print by the school officials who often reviewed the paper.”

Guidetti’s end goal, as he described it, was to “produce a piece of material that made people think about what they were doing, as well as why they were doing it…as I knew high school is a period where many people simply follow the crowd…it was my feeble attempt to raise awareness in the school about issues I believed were relevant to the student body.”

Now a senior at Kent State University in Ohio, Guidetti also said “my humor was peculiar enough that only a few people would understand…however I never believed that I would be so greatly censured for it either.”

A junior at Kent State University in Ohio, Vani Murthy is an intern at Accuracy in Academia.