PIEDMONT -- Student reporters for Piedmont High's student newspaper, The Piedmont Highlander, wanted to do their own report and investigation into the high school's highly publicized "fantasy slut league."
An online version of their story and editorial was released Wednesday. Based on interviews with more than 30 students, some of whom participated in the league, they found that aspects of the principal's advisory to 1,200 parents Oct. 19 were misleading or exaggerated, including the definition of sexual activity.
Most of the 25 sophomore, junior and senior girls interviewed for the story said that while they thought the league was degrading, they also believed Principal Rich Kitchens didn't properly define "sexual activity," or "hooking up," as it pertained to the league, in his letter to parents.
Of the 25 girls, 24 initially defined "hooking up" as making out, and not necessarily sexual activity, according to the student newspaper's report. Additionally, 23 of the 25 girls said casual sex is uncommon at Piedmont High.
The students interviewed for The Piedmont Highlander report also took issue with other conclusions about the league in the principal's letter, including the use of alcohol.
The "fantasy slut league" involved boys in varsity sports and girls who participated in "sexual activity" for "points" similar to fantasy sports leagues. A Facebook page devoted to the league was taken down quickly once word spread that the school discovered it.
The Piedmont Highlander reporters also interviewed eight junior and senior boys. Five of the boys said they participated in the league, and the other three were varsity athletes who were aware of it. The students are not identified in the school paper.
Kitchens had said in his advisory that alcohol was often used to pressure and manipulate girls into having sex for the "points league." Students responded that alcohol is often present at parties but is not used for that purpose.
"Girls have to make choices and be in control of themselves," a student said.
In earlier reports, Kitchens said information about the league came to light following a date rape assembly. He told The Piedmont Highlander staff, "It really had nothing to do (with it)." Apparently, on Oct. 1, a parent notified the administration that the daughter was mistreated by a male student, and that parent linked the incident to the purported sex league.
According to The Piedmont Highlander, the administration began investigating and holding meetings with faculty. On Oct. 19, Kitchens issued the advisory to parents informing them of the "league" and asking that they talk to their students about it.
Kitchens in his investigation talked to school athletes several times and was able to gather enough information that he thought an advisory was warranted. The school never came up with a definitive number of how many students were involved in the league.
The Highlander staff did speak with some fantasy league participants. Some refused to talk, others opened up, and some apologized.
One player said, "We all realized it was wrong and degrading to the girls involved. At the time, we never thought of it as being as bad as it really is and how it could hurt the girls."
The district is not planning any punitive measures for any students that were involved but instead is encouraging visits to the high school's Wellness Center for any students who want to talk about it confidentially.
Student editor Matt Leong said, "Our goal was not to tackle the whole media storm but just inform people at school and the parents. Many students were angry that Piedmont was put in this light."
The school newspaper editorial board sat down with their adviser, Beth Black, last week and plotted out their project.
"We spent time at lunch and every single day talking to students and reading up on the national publications that covered the issue," fellow editor Jack Hamner said.
"We thought we could do a much better report because we had the connections, and reporting from the ground you get the best information. Our main goal was to clear up misconceptions."
Black said she is proud of her students' work. They established their mission and allocated reporters to various tasks.
"Throughout the course of last week, they were respective of the news. They took this report to heart. They want to continue to talk about what this means to them journalistically," Black said.
Superintendent Connie Hubbard said Wednesday, "We are focusing on the positive, and seeing what we can do to improve."
School officials are meeting with every parent club, including elementary ones, to gather comments and reassure parents that the Piedmont schools are a safe place for all students.
Hubbard stressed that no criminal behavior has been identified, but if it was, "we do call police," she said. Interim police Chief Scott Wyatt had said that no reports have been made to the police related to the sex league.
Kitchens said Wednesday that the school now has plans to establish coaching alliance training and develop seasonal assemblies addressing all those involved in sports.
"So many kids play sports we want to integrate character education in the process, (stressing) sportsmanship and personal integrity," Kitchens said.
The school is also driving home the point that posts on social media can be hurtful and that a student should not say anything about another that they would not want to be said about themselves.
The district is working with teachers, students and parents to develop a special assembly in early December.
Leong said things have calmed down on campus.
"We think the shock value of the scandal has passed. But the issue of the league itself and general high school culture will stick around for a long time," Leong said.
"The bigger picture is moving ahead despite this thing. Everyone wanted to know the facts. That's what we did," Hamner said.
The Piedmont Highlander student report is at http://tphnews.com/.