Readin', writin', raunchy? District issues apology/Katy red-faced over sex terms in handbook


THU 09/09/1993 HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Section A, Page 21, 2 STAR Edition

KATY -- After a flap over affixing blame, the Katy school district will send letters of apology to district families for the frank sexual references in its student conduct handbook.

Although the district administration continued to refuse comment Wednesday, Katy Independent School District trustees said plans are to send the letters home with the 22,500 students on Friday.

The letters will be signed by Superintendent Hugh Hayes.

High-level district sources said Hayes initially sought a letter that had the board share the blame for the addition of the sexually explicit terms in the handbook. Board members refused after discovering that the material had never been submitted to them prior to publication of the 31-page handbook.

Distribution of the manual triggered a public uproar in Katy. It became the subject of discussion in national forums, ranging from Newsweek magazine to Rush Limbaugh's talk show.

At the center of the storm is the handbook's language on sexual misconduct. Children, as young as first-graders, were warned that they could be expelled if caught with their mouths or genitals in contact with the genitals or anuses of animals or fowl.

"An apology is certainly appropriate, but I don't know why it has taken them two weeks to come to that conclusion," said Donald W. Hart, one of the first complaining parents. "It looks like the superintendent has been running around trying to point a finger at someone else, like the only priority is to protect his image."

Hayes was in Austin on business and unavailable for comment, his office reported. Despite the furor, the board and Hayes have not formally discussed it in any open sessions. A closed meeting was held Tuesday night, with trustees refusing to say if that subject came up.

Trustee Mary McGarr said the action follows a district review of the incident. She said officials have told trustees that the material was not presented for board review because of tight publication deadlines.

The sexual misconduct wording was added to help the district enforce expanded state laws against lewdness by students, district officials told the Chronicle earlier. However, state education officials said they were surprised at the blunt language used, and that no other area schools included such graphic details.

"It was just a question of tracking down the facts on how the material came to be published," McGarr said. "I'm sorry it took so long."

Trustee Stanley Thompson called the rush to publication an "unfortunate set of circumstances that led to this mistake."

"Our schools really don't deserve the negative publicity that this has received," he said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a more conservative district than Katy. We want to properly lay out all of the facts. Then we'll move on down the road and get this behind us."