The Prince Of Peace Must Be Spinning In His Grave.
By Vicki Hart
I'VE WRITTEN STORIES about murderers, child molesters, thieves, neighborhood thugs and a variety of other miscreants. However, I've never experienced such a virulent reaction to a story as the one I wrote last week involving Salpointe Catholic High School.
The Tucson Weekly hit the newsstands at around 11 a.m. on Thursday; by 4 p.m. I'd already been warned that the Salpointe community was furious. I was advised to stay away from the campus.
At the Salpointe boys' varsity basketball game that evening, roughly 30 students were "wearing" the Tucson Weekly--it was pinned to their shirts and tucked into their pants. Other students were waving it; at times they were chanting, "We smoke marijuana." At the girls' basketball game, Salpointe students were overheard saying they knew for a fact that a Weekly reporter's son was denied entry into Salpointe because he was "too dumb," and that the article was the reporter's revenge for his not being admitted.
Sorry, but while my oldest son did take the Salpointe entrance exam, and though he scored in the 98th percentile overall, he chose not to apply to Salpointe. (I'm beginning to believe that was a very wise choice.) My youngest son was never interested in attending Salpointe.
That evening, I received a phone call from someone demanding to know why I was picking on Salpointe and not the school which my sons attend, at which, they suggested, people "get shot" and not "just drunk." At 10:30 p.m., someone called to say he was concerned for my safety, the safety of my home and the safety of my sons; the caller related that The Weekly article had been read aloud in a Salpointe government class, and that students were heard saying, "We know who she is, we know where she lives, and we know who her kids are."
The next day, Friday, I paged the Salpointe school resource officer to report what I'd heard. He advised me he was off duty that day and unavailable. He said I could call the dean's office at Salpointe or call 911 to have an officer come out to take a report. He said if I made a report he could follow up in a few days.
I chose not to call 911. And since Salpointe had let out at 1:45 p.m. that day, there was no one in the dean's office to take my call.
Friday's first call of the day was from the Salpointe Crusader, demanding to know what professional journalistic organizations The Weekly belongs to. Answer: A bunch. But first and foremost, we belong to that group called "citizens," a group whose right to free speech is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Guess they don't teach that--or at least not well--at Salpointe.
That day I received 11 calls during which the callers hung up, called me obscene names, or made bizarre noises into the phone.
I received two phone calls from sources for my story reminding me to keep their confidentiality and expressing concern for their children should they be identified.
I received three calls thanking me for "exposing the whole mess."
My favorite call that day came from a woman who identified herself as an attorney and the mother of a Salpointe varsity cheerleader. She said she didn't appreciate my trashy story or the trashy paper I write for. She said she was filing a defamation of character suit against me personally, and The Weekly, for "lumping her daughter in with the intoxicated cheerleaders" I had mentioned in my story. She demanded to know the name of the attorney to whom I wanted the suit sent. When I asked for her name, she refused to share it, and continued to demand my attorney's name. She advised me that the Salpointe community was in an "uproar," and "action was going to be taken against me." When I again asked her name, she hung up.
Another person contacted me through a mutual friend and offered more information on Salpointe, promising that I'd just hit the "tip of the iceberg."
One of my son's longtime friends, who now attends Salpointe, left a note in my door. She accused me of "insulting high school students," suggested I had a personal vendetta and wrote half-truths, and said a great portion of the article was "incredibly exaggerated or totally falsified." She, too, mentioned "the genuinely angry individuals," in the Salpointe government class. She extolled the virtues of Salpointe and added, "Quite honestly, you can no longer depend on a quality education from public schools." While I give her an "A" for content and salute her courage in signing her name, I find it somewhat ironic that her letter is full of misspellings, grammatical errors and poor punctuation. Perhaps public schools aren't so bad after all.
I was advised that Salpointe administrators called an emergency meeting of the faculty Friday to address the article. My informants said the faculty was asked not to write letters to the editor, in the hopes the brouhaha would die down.
Friday night our house and car were egged. The next night a Keystone beer box and a couple dozen empty beer cans were thrown into our front yard.
A clarification for Salpointe readers who were upset at the headlines and the story description on The Weekly's contents page: I don't write those; that job goes to the managing editor, who, when required to fill out annoying official forms asking for his "race," takes great delight in checking the "other" category and claiming he's the "spawn of Satan." I can't imagine what kind of headline he'll write for this piece.
However, I stand by my story 100 percent as accurate and true. It publicly addresses serious problems at Salpointe, an important institution in our community. And as I have reminded some of my more reasonable callers, I wasn't writing fiction; I didn't make it up; nor would I have had access to any of this information had I not been approached by Salpointe insiders. No wonder my sources felt they couldn't take their complaints to the Salpointe community, and instead chose to do it through a reporter.
Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Books | Cinema | Back Page | Archives
| © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth