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Fairfax Yearbooks Undergo Trim to Get a G Rating

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By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 15, 2006

That was no lighthouse.

Bill Clendaniel, the principal at Langley High School, was flipping through a copy of his school's new yearbook when he, well, flipped. There, on page 341, was a photograph of what was clearly a giant phallus made of snow. It was sitting in the back of a blue Ford F-250 pickup truck.

Some students at the high school in McLean called the towering snow sculpture a lighthouse or a rocket ship. Clendaniel called it something else altogether: offensive.

No way was Clendaniel going to send the more than 1,600 yearbooks home with that image, even though it wasn't much bigger than a postage stamp. There was only one thing to do. Cut them all out. One by one.

So school employees did just that, using an inch-square hole punch, until each and every offending photo was gone, leaving an unmistakable hole in every 2005-2006 yearbook.

Clendaniel yesterday referred calls to Fairfax County schools spokesman Paul Regnier, who explained the situation. "When the principal saw it, he right away said, 'We've got to do something,' " Regnier said. "He said, 'What are the options here?' "

Students seemed unfazed by the flap and said the photo, taken in February, had been widely distributed on Internet sites such as myspace.com and facebook.com.

"All of us were laughing about this months ago," said Chrissy Saris, 16, a junior. "I can understand why the administration felt like it's inappropriate, but I feel like it's just something that happened at our school. I think it was just funny."

The incident isn't the first time a snow phallus has caused a stir at an academic institution. In 2003, the Harvard Crimson reported that students had built a nine-foot version, which was soon knocked down by other students. The paper's opinion page called it "a cowardly act of vandalism" and opined on the "distinguished history of phallic imagery in art."

But Dean Janka, 17, the creator of the Langley sculpture, concedes that art history wasn't on his mind when he and a buddy piled the snow in the back of his pickup after a February snowstorm. He said that although he has joked with school administrators that the creation was intended to be a lighthouse or rocket ship, his inspiration was a similar snow phallus he had seen in an online photo.

"Me and my friend said, 'Let's just do that,' " Janka said yesterday afternoon as he fielded interviews from television and newspaper reporters outside the school. "I had all my friends tell me it was the funniest thing I'd ever done."

Instead of sledding or building a snowman, the pair crafted their realistic-looking sculpture, which extended over the roof of the truck, and drove around town. Janka said most drivers beeped their horns, and some even took photos. One man, he recalled, gave them a disapproving thumbs-down as he drove by.

Janka didn't intend to keep his artwork around, but the weather turned colder and it froze over. "I couldn't knock it down, so I had to bring it to school," he explained.

"I don't understand why it's such a big deal," said classmate Daniel Geraghty, 17. "It was all in good fun. Fifty percent of the people on the planet have that organ."

But officials at Langley and Marshall High School, where Janka takes some classes, didn't see it that way. A police officer at Marshall told him the snow needed to go, so a football player helped him destroy it. By then, the image was memorialized in a photo.

Schools spokesman Regnier said he is not sure how the photo made it into the yearbook, which is reviewed by a staff sponsor. He said the image was on a page near the back of the book under the index of student names.

Diane Miller, co-president of the Langley PTSA, said she thinks Clendaniel made the right call and said many parents would have found the photo objectionable. But she added that she thinks the prank was all in fun.

"I think it's about kids being kids and pushing the limits," Miller said. "Kids are the same as they were 10 years or 20 years or 30 years ago. They want to get one over on the adults."

They almost did.


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