The parent of a student has mounted a campaign against what the school district itself has called an "ugly tradition" — an annual list of graduating senior girls that describes them with vulgarities and obscenities and is circulated throughout the school.
A series of letters between parent Ruth Ahlemeier and various officials with the Ladue School District describes Ahlemeier's efforts to have the practice in Ladue High stopped and the district's efforts to investigate her complaints.
In one letter, shared with Patch on Monday, the president of the school board, Jayne Langsam, responded to Ahlemeier, recounting a conversation Ahlemeier had with Ladue High's principal:
"The principal did say during the conversation with you that it was an 'ugly tradition' and the school had tried to stop it, including this year, but had not been able to."
Ahlemeier showed Patch a copy of the "Senior List" that was circulated to students on May 11, at the end of the last school year. She declined to leave a copy with Patch.
The list, referenced in district correpondence as the "Senior List," came on a standard sheet of copy-paper and referenced seven female students by first name (the list Patch saw had the names blacked out). In each case, the writer or writers made crude, vulgar and sometimes obscene references to the students' body parts, sexual habits and hygiene.
"It's not condoned by the school or organized by the school," said Susan Dielmann, director of communications for the Ladue School District. Later, Langsam said: "We are looking at efforts to curb it. It's a culture of bullying we're trying to address."
On Monday, Dielmann told Patch she would check on what routine practices the district has implemented to educate students about sexual harassment and bullying.
"We have anti-bullying measures in place and there are plans to ramp those up," Dielmann said.
After seeing the list, Ahlemeier wrote to the school district requesting an investigation into the practice and to learn what steps the district has taken to stop the practice. The series of letters led to a closed meeting with the school district on Monday afternoon with Ahlemeier.
Patch requested the reason why the meeting was closed and the district superintendent, Marsha Chappelow, cited student privacy concerns — although Ahlemeier herself also requested that the hearing be open to the public.
Ahlemeier was accompanied at the hearing by Missouri State Rep. Sue Allen, R-Town and Country, a friend of Ahlemeier's who has twice sponsored anti-bullying legislation in Jefferson City.
When asked whether her daughter had been included in the May 11 list that was circulated, Ahlemeier said, "I would prefer to keep the focus on the list."
"I just want to know what they are going to do about this," Ahlemeier said. "The kids who were doing it were juniors, so they are still in school."
The series of letters between Ahlemeier and the school district indicates that district officials looked into her concerns and "the students responsible were identified. They received immediate and long-term consequences," according to a letter on May 23 from Joan Oakley, an assistant superintendent in the district.
The letter goes on to say later that "continued corrective action will be taken." It later says "it is the desire of the district, the high school administration and the parent association to stop the lists and provide specific training to the high school students and staff on sexual harassment and bullying."
Ahlemeier, chief executive of OEM Logistics in Olivette, said she does not want any action taken against the boys who participated.
"The school board needs to stop it from this point forward," she said.