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In May of 2000, it was reported in the local paper that thirty-four students who had attended Hanover High School in Pennsylvania had had their pictures taken for the school yearbook giving an obscene gesture. The principal, John P. Cokefair, had sent a letter to the thirty-four students' parents explaining that because of the preponderance of this gesture in the photos, the offending photoswould be re-taken, without the gesturing students, and these students would bear the cost of the re-shoot.
Additionally, the students were to recieve community service for a day, and seniors who did not show up would be denied their diplomas, while truant underclassmen would be given a three-day suspension.
An outsider who hears this story naturally asks the same question: How were thirty-fourstudents able to give the finger and not get caught until it was necessary to replace the photos?
Therein lies the interesting fact of this event; the gesture in question was not the middle finger, but a gesture known in certain circles as "the shocker". Principal Cokefair explained in his letter that the reference was "so horrific" that some students could not even speak of it. His letter explained,"perhaps your child will elaborate when you have a talk about this matter."
In fact, the photos had been taken throughout the year, but were undetected as anything meaningful until some team photos were brought to the attention of the administration by a faculty member in the athletic department. Once the meaning was known, the yearbook had become a minefield of obscenity and deplorablereferences; the Principal had felt he must act.
It would be best at this juncture to assist the unknowing (feel no embarassment) as to the formation and reference of "the shocker". Let's start with your outstretched hand, palm up. Take your ring finger (next to the pinky) and touch it to your thumb. It is as if you're making an "OK" symbol with the wrong finger. Now, flatten your finger and thumb a bit,while your first, second and pinky fingers remain straight up. Rotate your hand a little, so your straightened fingers are pointing somewhat sideways.
Congratulations, you are now making "The Shocker".
It is a gesture meant to indicate a sexual act, wherein the first and second fingers enter a vagina, while the errant pinky plunges into the anus; hence the "shock". The gesture, the province ofminds quite filthy in nature, has taken on other, more explicit names: "Two in the pink and one in the stink", "two in the coot and one in the boot", "going to town with one in the brown". Yes, quite rude, quite crude... but a minimal impact, considering its relative obscurity and difficult explanation. You can imagine Cokefair's eyes tearing up with anger as he flipped through the photographs;smiling faces, blushing with youth and vitality, innocently holding up
a signal representing digital sodomy and sexual manipulation. The despair in the room, the struggle to decide what to do, must have been palpable.
For their own part, students claimed several defenses to the local press; that some didn't know what the meaning of the gesture was (quite likely), that it had been done in previousyearbooks with no punishment (and it had), and that the punishment was, after all, inherently cruel.
A parents' meeting was quickly announced by the school board for the following tuesday, allowing the parents to vent their anger or sound their agreement with the chosen punishment.
One hundred parents and students showed up. One hundred! The tone was obvious, the intent soon laid out: removal ofthe photos was not the answer. This tone found a voice in one Kate Klunk, the lone student representative on the school board. That night had been bittersweet for her; while this debate raged on, she had also been awarded a certificate for two years of service on the board. But she saw through the fog of anger and spoke. And her words held weight and meaning.
"The yearbook is designed as a...