Category Archives: Columns

An unconventional but memorable senior year

Story by Gracie Vanover

Like every other senior at FC I never thought I would be finishing my senior year digitally. I expected to be leaning back in my special editor-in-chief swivel chair and counting down the days until I pass the torch. But I did not get to do that the normal way editors before me did. Although these last three months have made my senior year unconventional, to say the least, I would never trade this time for the world.

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Back in the summer of 2019 when I went to the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University Bloomington. I made tons of friends and still keep in touch with them.

Senior year was not my “picture perfect” dream. I had dreamed of marching band state. I had dreamed of the tears of happiness after my final live show in radio and tv. I dreamed of all the crying and hugging as the bell rang during my last news period of high school. I dreamed of enjoying my last “eighth period” after school with my friends and radio and tv teacher Brian Shaw. Although my dreams did not or will not come true, I am still content with my senior year.

In my time as a senior and team leader I learned so many life lessons. I learned concepts that sometimes I still struggle with. Although I am a work driven person, I learned sometimes you just have to step back and examine life. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing and editing. And that is okay. I am human and not a robot, so I deserve a day or two of doing nothing. 

Not only did this year teach me lessons, but I accomplished so much, unlike any other

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My first year on staff during the 2018-19 school year where I served as the Assistant A&E Editor.

years of high school. If you would have told freshman me that I would be leading an award-winning staff or be a section leader in a band program I had been a part of for years, I would have said you were bluffing. I could have never imagined that I would be standing in front of a news staff every day yelling “Good morning!” and leading a team through our routine. I mean, last year as a junior I would have never imagined being the top dog. 

Normally I feel like people who are in my position would brag or be proud about their work, but that is not me. I never “flex” my awards or scholarships or tell people to read my work. Although I am not ashamed of my work, I have never felt it was anything special or award worthy. I have always been harsh on my writing and felt it was subpar at best. Luckily, I have had amazing advisors and peers to push me to appreciate my own work and see how extraordinary it could be. Without them I would not be in this position. I never even really considered it until my friends told me I would be perfect for the job. Although I was never perfect for this role, it was one I will never forget.

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One of my graduation medals was for completing the journalism path. I never intended on completing this path but now I am glad I did.

Of course, memories are a huge part of any experience. I will never forget laughs while helping during the fifth hour journalism class. I will never forget awarding the members of staff on our “Good Noodle” board. I will never forget comforting people who had outside the newsroom issues. I will never forget reading college admissions essays for people on my staff, and so much more. I will carry memories of every person on my two years of staff, especially ones with our amazing adviser, Jim Lang.

Lang has been through thick and thin with me in my time in this program. He helped me make some of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. He reassured me of the excellent work I was doing and made sure I did not undermine myself. He recommended me for countless scholarships and awards I would have never thought I deserved. He has not only been an adviser and role model but he has also been a true friend who I can never thank enough.

All I can say is, thank you FC. Your programs have pushed me to be the best I can be. Without the journalism programs led by two great men, I would not be where I am today. So, thank you FC. I will miss you more than you will ever know.


Privacy disappears in the virtual age

Art by Sam Haney

Story by Audrey Boyd

With the rapid growth of eLearning and the continual demands to self-isolate, the use of technology to work from home and communicate with loved ones has seen a major spike within the last few months. On April 9, Android Central reported that Google Classroom users have doubled, reaching 100 million as more schools across the globe close for the remaining year.

FC students and staff have had first-hand experience with this situation since April 2, when Governor Eric Holcomb announced that all Indiana schools will be closed for the rest of the school year. The revelation came merely one day after the first day of FC’s online learning.

Coincidentally, the news broke that Google was being sued for allegedly collecting student biometric data on April 6, only days later.

The lawsuit, filed by two anonymous Illinois students through their father, Clinton Farwell, states, “Google has complete control over the data collection, use, and retention practices of the ‘G Suite for Education’ service, including the biometric data and other personally identifying information collected through the use of the service…” These services include Gmail, Google Classroom, Google Docs, Chromebooks, and many more.

The lawsuit argues that Google uses this control “…not only to secretly and unlawfully monitor and profile children, but to do so without the knowledge or consent of those children’s parents.”

“The data collection would likely violate Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, which regulates facial recognition, fingerprinting and other biometric technologies in the state,” news website CNET states in an article titled “Two children sue Google for allegedly collecting students’ biometric data.” It continues to say, “The practice would also likely run afoul of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, a federal law that requires sites to get parental consent when collecting personal information from users who are under 13 years old.”

Google has faced legal trouble for similar breaches of privacy in the past. A lawsuit filed on February 20 by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas focused on the alleged collection of students’ contacts, voice recordings, search history, location, and passwords. These accusations extend to YouTube as well, another company owned by Google.

It is not uncommon for major companies to take advantage of their consumers. Many advertisers track a user’s activity online to manipulate them into buying their products through targeted advertising. Google’s incognito mode can still keep records of your browsing history and link them to your identity. Facebook has been fined for misuse of facial recognition and selling private user data to outside companies. Amazon admitted to using the Amazon Alexa to record conversations and keep them forever, unless the user manually deletes them– however, even if the audio copy is removed, Amazon says they may still keep a record of Alexa’s response.

In this digital age, the privacy of the public has become virtually nonexistent. We no longer have the right to travel without being tracked, to research without being recorded, to buy without being sold, or to learn without being scanned. Our lives are a never ending film in a world of technology.

There are some options to protect your information. One example is installing a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which will hide your location by redirecting internet traffic and can encrypt your information from possible interceptors.

However, this means that the VPN now has your information, and it cannot be guaranteed that they will not use it for the same purposes as the others. In 2015, CNET reported, “A group of coders and security researchers has claimed that one of the world’s most popular free VPN services [Hola] is an insecure network that has been on-selling users’ bandwidth and opening up their devices, giving “anybody” easy access,” in an article titled “Adios, Hola: Researchers say it’s time to nix the ‘poorly concealed’ service.” 

The lawsuit claims that Hola is vulnerable enough to still allow third parties to “take over your entire computer, without you even knowing.”

“Furthermore,” says CNET, “[the group] alleges that Hola runs a secondary business, known as Luminati, which on-sells Hola users’ bandwidth for up to $20 per GB.”

Even the most basic means of protection cannot guarantee our safety. 

And, despite this awareness, we still continue to browse. We have accepted these conditions, knowing that we are being violated, but our habits never change. How can they? As first-world nations become entirely consumed by technology, it leaves us with little other choice.

We have a right to our privacy, and the denial of such is unethical. We should not have to fear that their private conversations are being recorded and stored away. We should not have to fear being tracked, scanned, or monitored at any given time.

Laws to protect these rights can be violated. We are no longer in control of ourselves, and we have no power to change it.

A Baddude’s Journal senior athlete spotlight: Reece Compton

By J.D. McKay

This season, the boys’ golf team was preparing to win their fourth straight sectional title. Senior Reece Compton was preparing to try to finish in the top five for the third straight year,  but his goals for this season were bigger than a top 5 finish at sectionals. 

“My goals were to make it back to state, obviously. Then finish on the podium,” said Compton. “I wanted to team to get a top 4 finish. That had been our goal for the past three seasons and I knew we had it in us.”

The team finished 10th Compton’s sophomore year and 7th his junior year. As the team’s lone captain, he knew he would have to be a leader to get the team to improve three spots at state. 

“My role this season was to be a great teammate and lead by example. I wanted to show the underclassmen what it takes to get to the level you want to get to.” 

Being the team leader his senior year would be an easy role to fill because Compton has been a hardworking golfer for a long time. 

“I have had a club in my hand since I began to walk. My dad introduced the game to me at a very early age. I began competing competitively at age eight,” he said. “Now, I play between six and seven days a week and probably spend four hours a day practicing.”

Next year, he will play golf at Division-1 Purdue Fort Wayne; of course, Compton is excited about the future, but he is still disappointed to lose his senior year.

“The most disappointing part of losing the senior is being around the guys and not getting closure to how our season would have ended. Our whole team had dreamed about walking on the podium and having a medal around our neck,” said Compton. 

Just like in high school, he has big goals for the first season of his college career.  

“My goals are to make an impact my freshman year at Purdue Fort Wayne and keep improving,” he said. “I want to help the team win a Horizon Conference championship and make it to the NCAA regional.” 

His work ethic makes these goals reachable, but part of his work ethic came from the best golfing advice he has been given.

“The best advice would be from my dad,” said Compton. “He told me to never settle or get complacent and always look for ways to improve.”

Private zoos destroy animal lives

Art by Scarlett Hatton

Story by Gracie Vanover

Now by now I am sure everyone reading this has heard of or watched Tiger King. While I do admit it that it is crazy and funny, it is also a highly toxic situation for all of those animals. These roadside zoos are everywhere around the country. What is even worse is we have a private zoo not even an hour away from here. 

In 1999, Charlestown local Tim Stark opened his private, non-profit zoo called Wildlife in Need.  According to Stark’s website the zoo is “dedicated to the rehabilitation & release of indigenous wildlife & provision of safe harbor to an array of exotic & endangered species.” Which overall seems like a pretty good message, right? But everything is not what it seems. 

On April 13, Stark lost a legal suit removing his wildlife license permanently. According to WHAS11 a USDA juror has ruled that Stark has violated the Animal Welfare Act 120 times between 2012 and 2016. According to the 183-page packet provided by the USDA, Stark has been known to harass federal inspectors and has failed multiple times to provide adequate veterinary care. He now faces over 340,000 dollars and fines but has a chance to appeal.

However, Wildlife in Need is not the only perpetrator. According to Tigers in America there are more than 3,000 roadside or private zoos spanning across 44 different states. That is insane. Not only are these animals suffering but these zoo owners are lying and saying they are well handled.

According to Oklahoma’s court records held against Joe “Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, his roadside zoo was in trouble for breaking the Lacey Act due to making illegal transactions involving tigers. He also euthanized five tigers with no vet present, which violates the Endangered Species Act.

Now I understand that not every person in a corporation is the same. However, when the biggest names like Maldonado-Passage and Stark are getting away with it, are others probably as well? Corporations like PETA would not spend millions of dollars and track tons of legal records if this was not truly an issue.

Regardless of whether these people are taking care of these animals correctly or not they should not own them. They are wild animals for a reason. While I understand they are endangered I also do not believe these roadside zoos should be breeding these animals for financial gain. 

So do your research and look into these places. Avoid giving or visiting these roadside zoos. If you give to them then you are supporting them. Stand up for animal rights because they cannot speak for themselves.

Important roadside zoo links:

Wildlife in Need Fact Sheet

PETA‘s Pseudo-sanctuary List

Indiana’s Connection to Tiger King

Proposed Kentucky bills threaten livelihoods of transgender youth

Story by Christy Avery

Art by Scarlett Hatton

 “Live and let live.”

A hackneyed phrase, maybe. Meaningful all the same.

Upon hearing it, most people would give a nod in agreement, acknowledging the age-old practice of “minding your business.” Most people do it: most people do not care what another has for dinner, or if their favorite color is red instead of blue, or what kind of toilet paper someone else may be desperately stocking up on during the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. Most people generally do not care what someone else’s life looks like. 

Until it comes down to which bathroom someone gets to use, or what sports team they can play on, or whether or not they have the right to receive medical care. 

Then, “let live” takes on a different meaning. 

You can probably tell which direction this is going in by that last paragraph, which is all the more telling that the debate over transgender rights has dragged on for far too long. I will not give a history lesson, because it probably is not needed; year after year, the same arguments over pronouns, biology, and sex versus gender keep people on each side of the issue at each other’s throats — and in doing so, keep the world from solidifying a new outlook. Or at least, letting it go. 

Which is why I was both exasperated but not surprised to recently learn that, in the midst of a global pandemic and the rest of the world’s chaos, mind you, that Kentucky lawmakers proposed a series of bills late last year that if passed by the end of the legislative season, April 15, would limit essential rights of transgender youth in Kentucky schools. 

One of the bills, known as the Kentucky Student Privacy Act, would require students to use only the facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with their biological sex, as “allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms, or showers that are reserved for students of a different biological sex: a). will create a significant potential for disruption of school activities and unsafe conditions, and b). will create potential embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students.” 

The concern makes sense. Nobody wants to be seen in a state of undress. But its relevance here is questionable. The concern of decency, especially in a school setting, is why there are not cameras in facilities, and why there are separate bathroom and shower stalls. Which brings us to another logical point: a person’s genitalia, whether or not it “matches” with their chosen gender, cannot be seen through a locked door. And when it comes to locker rooms, cisgender people do not always want to undress out in the open, either; I never felt comfortable doing so until my senior year. That, however, does not rid me of the fact that I, like many others, am lucky: the way I feel about my gender matches my body, and therefore I am welcomed in the appropriate spaces. I can walk into the girls’ restroom or locker room and go about my business unquestioned.

Although many seem to believe otherwise, transgender people just want to do the same. They use the restroom and shower just like everyone else. What is underneath their towel or behind the door is private, and unlikely to be seen anyway. So as understandable as it is to want privacy, it is not black-and-white; there are solutions that span beyond locking innocent people out. Schools could provide more unisex, gender-neutral bathrooms, or, if nothing else, request that a transgender student use a stall within the locker room that corresponds to their gender. And if a cisgender person feels uncomfortable at the mere presence of a transgender student? They could do what they have had the opportunity to do all along: mind their own business or find another way to do it. 

It can be that simple to not cause a riot. So one wonders where the “psychological trauma” comes in. 

 That brings us right back around to Kentucky lawmakers. House Bill 321, introduced simultaneously with the Student Privacy Act, aims to prohibit medical professionals from performing procedures or prescribing medications to transgender youth. Rep. Savannah Maddox backs the bill, writing on her Facebook page last fall that “I am a strong advocate for parents’ rights–but it is not the right of a parent to permanently alter a child’s gender or identity, even when based upon certain behaviors or the perceptions of a child’s mind which has not yet had time to fully develop.” 

There appears to be some confusion here: if it is not even the right of a parent to decide what their child gets to do, how is it the right of a lawmaker to decide? 

One could argue that Maddox is simply doing her job: trying to protect citizens. I would argue that she is protecting nobody at all, especially not with misinformation. While the process of transitioning is certainly a big one, it is not taken lightly, and the medical providers lawmakers threaten to punish with a Class D felony–which holds a sentence of up to five years–work closely with families to ensure a slow transition, one that can be adjusted if done early enough. Puberty blockers, for example, are typically used to “allow these families the opportunity to hit a pause button… until we know that it is either the right or the wrong direction for their particular child,” said Dr. Rob Garofolo in an interview to FRONTLINE

The “certain behaviors” and “perceptions” cited as reasons to block medical treatment can be explored during this time. But that’s only if the parent — and the child — is given the right to do so. It’s only after many years of a child affirming their gender socially and medically that they are able to begin the process of reassignment surgery or hormones if desired. A typical concern, as Maddox wrote, is that parents are likely to somehow push their children into further changes, or that if a minor does choose themselves, they will regret it.

But the desire to physically embody how one feels about themselves does not begin or end with a birthday, and regret is uncommon: in a 2015 study by the U.S. National Center for Transgender Equality, only 8 percent of nearly 28,000 people expressed a sense of regret after transitioning. 

The real risk is that, in ignoring the phrase “let live,” lawmakers are quite literally putting lives in danger. In grumbling about a child’s mind not yet being developed, Maddox forgets that nearly every medical source out there asserts that the brain is not fully developed until age 25. Making minors wait until they are 18 to receive hormone therapy or surgery adds years onto the mental health issues that are caused by dysphoria: in a study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2014, it was found that transgender youth have a “twofold to threefold” increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. In another study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 50 percent of trans boys, 41 percent of nonbinary teens and 30 percent of trans girls had attempted suicide in their lifetime. 

Transgender healthcare can be irreversible in some aspects. But then again, are tattoos not the same? Same with piercings, in a sense? Teens choose to get those with relatively little uproar. But yet, when a child wants to confirm who they are, we fret and fuss and complicate the deliberate and often slow choices that are, frankly, none of our business at all. 

Medical providers — and parents, for that matter — should not be punished for simply doing their jobs, to help and support those in their care. Making it illegal to do so demonstrates a belief that parents and doctors are incompetent, and shows that the experiences of transgender youth apparently are not valid enough. Even if all that trans youth want is to exist safely and happily within this world, to make choices that everyone may not agree with, but that harm no one. And, most importantly, keep them existing. 

“Live and let live.” To lawmakers, it seems to be one or the other. 

I hope on April 15, they will make the right choice. 


Links to bills: